To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what I should do to honor someone who believed so strongly in their cause that they were willing to die for it. I'm not sure that there is anything I can do that would even be worthy. But, I'm going to try, because I feel this is an important day. Not just for the things that I have that my parents did not have, but because of some of the things they still carry that I've never really had to.
My mom and dad grew up in a time and place where being black was an automatic strike against anything you might want to do or become when you got older. My mind knows this. My heart cannot fathom the kind of mentality that would let one group of people mistreat another group of people solely on the basis of what they look like. Mom isn't even 'black' if you go by standards of today. She's bi-racial because her mom was Native American. Back then, that still equated to black. Or, to be politically correct now, Black. I don't see that the capital letter makes a difference, but I guess in the subcontext of oppression, something as trivial as capitalization can mean a great deal.
I am grateful that I don't have to understand the kind of self-loathing that comes from automatically assuming that everyone who looks differently must be hostile towards me. I'm also saddened that I don't understand the kind of solidarity that came from having to band together under one racial umbrella, so to speak. I see too many Black people using their 'blackness' as a shield and an excuse as to why they can't try to educate themselves, or why they aren't motivated to work, or why they can't attempt to have something resembling morals. And I know that Martin Luther King Jr. did not want us all to play the victim.
He didn't die so that I can say 'Hey I'm Black, give me a break.' He died so that I can say "Hey, it doesn't matter what color I am, I'm still a valid person. I still have something to contribute. I can still mean something in the grand scheme of things." He wasn't looking for a handout or a hand up. He was looking for a level playing field. People can argue that it's still slanted towards the white majority all they want, but if no one gets off their ass and does anything... what has he accomplished.
I can't say that I would have been brave enough to take a stand if I'd grown up back then. I only know that the person I am now is eternally grateful to those who did. And I owe a debt that can never be repaid to those who died for their cause. For my cause. I will never take my education for granted. I will never take my friends for granted. I will never take the world I live in for granted because that world was shaped on the backs of people I'll never know. People who will never know me, but who stood up and fought for me and people like me anyway.
So. To the honorable Dr. King, I say thank you and wish you peace on whatever path you travel in the after life. To those who stood by his side, physically and metaphorically, I say thank you as well. I am in your debt. I will try to be worthy in the only way I know how: I will be my own person and no one else's.
To those who stood against him: I forgive you. It is understandable to be afraid of change, to be afraid of people who are different. The leap from fear to hate is a short one, but hopefully not a permanent one. I hope people who feel this way learn better in time, if not they themselves, then their children as they grow and see the reality of the world.