I will never, ever forget what my mom told me at a very young age about being black in this world.
“Honey, you have to be smarter, stronger and work harder than your white friends. I know it’s not fair, but that’s just how it is.”
She didn’t say these words to be negative or dramatic, quite the opposite. If anything, as I grew older, these words have been fuel to my fire and have helped me be very successful (in my opinion) in many aspects of my life.
At the time though, I did what most kids do when their moms shared words of wisdom — I smiled and nodded, and moved on with the rest of my day. She went on to say something about how this won’t be the case when I had kids, which was comforting I suppose for her to say aloud.
Unfortunately, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2017 with two kids of my own, I believe that in a few years I’ll have to have some version of this conversation with them, which kills me just a little.
Being black is beautiful, strong, powerful and unstoppable. Yet, when I think about our future president’s point of view on us, it’s quite the opposite. We’re a threat to his “Great America” of yesteryear, which, unfortunately, was only great for those lacking in melanin.
But, on this day that we remember Martin Luther King Jr., all I can think about is what if he just accepted things as they were? What if he didn’t choose to oppose archaic government and social issues and fight for Civil rights because those in power didn’t want it that way? Who knows what sort of society we’d be living in?
So, in addition to the talk about working harder than your white peers, I’ll empower them to oppose those “in power,” in a strategic and respectful way, if they do not agree. They need to understand that just because someone is in an important seat of leadership, it doesn’t always mean that they are the most capable person to be sitting there — this upcoming administration is a clear example of that.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Speak up, and speak up often. Let your voice be heard, and don’t be a fly on the wall, ever. That’s a message that all of our kids should hear and hear often.