Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, for all you've done in this nation toward equal rights.
Thank you for allowing my son to call white people, black people, and people of every color in between his peers. Thank you for allowing him to come to America and instantly become an ordinary, everyday American.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have African-American friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. I have sung with them, drummed with them, laughed with them, exchanged stories with them, and learned from them, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
Thank you for helping to create a society in which my cousin can get a job at a store almost completely staffed by African-Americans, and not be obligated to boss them around or demean them, and be genuinely accepted rather than secretly despised by them. And where, if they are demeaned by anyone, they may complain and their boss will take them seriously.
Thank you for helping to create a society in which black teachers can get jobs at a prestigious private school with mostly white students in a mostly white area, and given the respect due all teachers without their race being a factor. My son may have a few of those teachers someday.
Thank you for helping to create a society where a black candidate is run-of-the-mill, a black governor is not extraordinary, and a black president is... well, president. And where if nonblack citizens complain about the race of their black politicians, they are shamed and scolded by their peers.
These comments may sound trite, but imagine how trite they'd sound if they were not true. America's journey to black equality has been long and hard, and we're still not quite done yet, but imagine how much worse it would have been if luminaries such as Dr. King didn't speak out. Imagine how our progress would stall if we don't speak out today, if we forget it all happened. There's still a lot of work to do if we want our kids to grow up in a world where they don't secretly wish to be white.
I started reading The Civil War by esteemed documentarist Ken Burns today. I hadn't even thought about the fortuity of reading a Civil War book on MLK Day. But I did think while reading the introduction, and its overview of why the Civil War was fought, "You know, every American should read and remember a little history every now and then. It's so easy to forget this all happened."
I'm glad I'm an American, and I'm going to make a little more effort to remind myself why.
(Fortunately for me, there are thousands of books about American history, and I like to read.)