When you look at this picture, what do you see? For me, I see innocence and promise delicately on display. I see another time. Yet, I can’t help but be convinced that if we were of the same era he’d be a friend.
I wasn’t born during the era of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Like most Americans, he was a topic in history class we discussed, but apart from that, he wasn’t really ever brought up. I used to love having the extra day off from school, given the national holiday of remembrance! But, unfortunately, my parents never had time off of work to take advantage of that day, thus easy for me to bypass the importance of remembrance. But, also to be fair, as a kid, I did not have the depth of maturity to comprehend the magnitude of influence and impact he had in bringing visibility to the supremacy culture majority of Americans had flowing thru their veins at that time … a time I wasn’t even born in.
Speaking for myself, 2016 was quite a polarizing year, ripping slow healing wombs back open for Americans on the topic of bigotry, while new ones being created. Perhaps naivety was the world I lived, but I sincerely thought the act of prejudice was slowly, but surely, dissipating as the populous of older American generations descended. Yet, this past year thrust a reality in my face that I once believed was a closing chapter for in the United States of America.
I was taught during my youth that prejudice was only between the first two colors every baby sees when they are born: black and white. Funny now when thinking about that truth … I never realized how at that fragile, delicate moment … when every human being opens their eyes they all see the same two colors … and both are needed to bring beautiful color into their world. It makes you think for a second … do you think the blind hold color prejudice?
Has America made strides towards dissipating bias? I believe so. Is it astronomical? No.
Almost as if 2016 was a time of orchestra, story line after story line of venomous rhetoric … civil degradation … and, exemplified mistrust and fear … all played as the crescendo to the climax of America’s unspoken bigotry. I was taught during my youth that prejudice was only based on two hues. And what this 2016 year has propelled, up-front and personal, is that what should be adjusted is that the prejudice the country should acknowledge and defeat is not by a factor of just colors, but a larger dynamic of intolerance for difference. I saw it in multiple angles: color … political views … opinions … and list goes on.
I learned something interesting recently. I just completed a semester on neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. A compelling truth was shared in the way the brain naturally reacts to difference: Fear. More specifically, every brain’s natural state is to be fearful of difference. The explanation for this is the brain is constantly looking … in fact, thriving … for a pattern in everything we do, see, etc. And, the brain’s natural defense mechanism is to associate difference with something the body should fear until the brain is taught to reconstruct that difference as non-harming. It’s the body’s natural defense mechanism. So, in summary, we are born to see a difference as uncomfortable, even fearful. Therefore, we shouldn’t hold 100% shame for our brain’s natural process, BUT we should hold shame should we choose not to change.
Therefore, to recoil on the topic of indifference, it is worth diverting a national holiday where prominence is primarily focused solely on an individual and instead the American society, as a whole, is taught to spend that day embracing difference. Give all peoples of the nation the day to bypass work obligations and be incentivized to spend time with a group … or perhaps an individual … that is different than them, whether by color, culture, generation, etc. Maybe spend that day in self-awareness, learning and developing new mechanisms for listening to other’s perspectives versus only seeing things from the same lens. Make a new friend who’s mother tongue isn’t your own.
In this new budding 2017 year, I reflect on how I used to view Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and am remiss that I didn’t see it as more before. I no longer see just a man … who rightfully deserves every ounce of a permanent earmark in American history … but, I am reminded to the same pair of eyes we both were born with. I opt to identify and connect where we are the same … where we have a pattern.
If you have something you feel you have in common with Martin Luther King, or have something to contribute on the topic of overcoming differences, please comment below and share!