I woke up this Monday morning, turned on the tv and watched the news like I usually do. Mostly for traffic and weather updates. I saw all of the parades and celebrations in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taking place. My next thought was ‘I really don’t want to go to work today’. Not because I wanted to attend these celebrations, but because I wanted to…sleep in. I’d had a pretty busy weekend and I was tired. I saw a couple of Facebook posts from people who were off from work on MLK Day and I was envious.
I had to quickly check myself!
I watched Selma a couple of days ago. David Oyelowo who portrayed Dr. King gave an awesome performance along with the entire cast. It was a snapshot of the life of Dr. King and one of the many moments of the Civil Rights Movement. I’m not going to give a history lesson here, but if you haven’t seen the movie you should. Every American should see this film. It is American history, not just Black history.
So after I got over myself, I was reminded that it is a privilege to be able to go to work this morning. Not only to go to work, but to do the type of work that I do. I sit at a comfy desk in a comfy environment to perform my job. Just a few generations ago, being a maid or cook would have been the only opportunities available to me.
I earned my Bachelor’s degree on the backs of those who marched and peacefully protested for equal rights, but were beaten for it. Dr. King was a giant among many other great leaders in the cause of equal rights for all people. Because of his sacrifice and other prominent figures I have a better life today. Let’s not forget the heroism of all the people’s names we’ll never know – black, white, as well as other ethnicities – who will never be honored with holidays or mentioned in history books. Because of them all I can vote, sit anywhere in a restaurant or bus, and live where I want.
When I started this blog I told myself I was not going to write about controversial or polarizing topics. I feel like there are already enough news outlets and internet debaters. But I couldn’t help but think of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Jordan Davis, and Tamir Rice while watching Selma. I also thought of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos – the officers killed in retaliation of the many unarmed black male deaths at the hands of police officers in the past couple of years.
I will not delve into details of these or any of the many other incidents that I don’t have time to mention. All of these cases are terribly tragic and unfortunate. Whatever your views, not all white law enforcement and authorities are racist, and not all unarmed black males are completely innocent. Ignorance, hatred, and stupidity do not discriminate. It affects many people regardless of race and background. These events are a stark reminder that there is still a lot of work to do to improve race relations in this great country.
Selma focused on the moments that led up to the passing of the Voting Rights act of 1965. Fifty years later we have President Barack Obama, a sitting president who is African-American. This is due to all of the hard work that paved the way for such an achievement. So much progress in some areas, yet still a long way to go in other areas.
So while I had to work today, I realized that what I do for a living is because of those who did what had to be done. Having a job is a tremendous blessing that no one should ever take for granted. As a black woman in America, I will not take for granted the freedom that I have been afforded because of the real work of those who came before me. How dare I contemplate staying in bed and watching mindless daytime tv? What if the Civil Rights Movement slept in and took a day off? Even before that, what if the Abolitionist Movement did the same? I might not be living in a world where I would have the choice to do so.
Happy MLK Day!