#MLK Day… obligation or necessity?

I’m a history teacher by profession (well, by degree and hopefully soon enough by profession). One of the greatest times in United States history is the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of, if not THE, greatest leader and icon of the time period. This makes him VERY important to my profession.

I am also a human being and one that would describe myself as Christian. This should give me an even greater interest, admiration, and inspiration for and from King’s spirit of love and sacrifice. As many prophets before him we would be safe emulating his actions and putting his words into practice.

Once a year citizens of the United States are hearkened to remember the man who’s name is given every third Monday of the month of January. If you are familiar with the history behind getting the entire nation to celebrate the holiday (wikipedia will help give some background) then you know President Reagan begrudgingly signed the holiday into law, a seemingly obligatory act given it was approved by congress by enough votes to overturn a veto should the President resort to it.

That history, combined with the massive amount of facebook statii, tweets, and blogposts concerning the day from people that don’t NORMALLY do such things makes me wonder if we are simply fulfilling our obligation to observe a day that should be wildly celebrated.

Self-confession time, I have always admired Dr. King from afar; as you would a beautiful girl (or guy) completely out of your league across the classroom, office, or coffee shop. I’ve known enough about him to be interested, to admire him, and to be (on occasion) inspired by him. However, like that girl across the coffee shop I have never had the courage to really get to know him. To read his books and essays, to listen to his sermons, or to take something he said and truly live by it.

I’m ashamed really because it all stems from the fact that I fall into the demographic least discriminated against, white middle-class male. To me – and others like me – Martin Luther King Jr. day is an obligation I hold in honor of my brothers and sisters to whom celebration of his triumphs is a necessity. However, this obligation to me has become my necessity. A necessary reminder that I shouldn’t “observe” a holiday for the sake of someone else, but should CELEBRATE alongside them by learning why it is important to them.

And so with this post I admit my ignorance and selfishness, apologize for it, and offer to rectify it by educating myself. By praying that my heart turned from selfish ambition to a spirit of thinking of others, by reading some of Dr. King’s essays, and by finding individuals with greater knowledge than me on Civil Rights and African-American rights and asking questions.

May 2012 bring personal and communal growth to us all!

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1 Comment

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One response to “#MLK Day… obligation or necessity?

  1. Reading his words enabled me to find my place at the table. See you there

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