Reflections on a King: A Woman’s Vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Day

It is the beginning of January 2007 and I am here, comfortable, at my home in Moab, Utah. It is actually a second home. I live in Aspen, CO the rest of the year, but the place in Aspen is small and “lovely,” while this place in Moab is grand and expansive in comparison. It’s a real home, with a two-car garage, a small backyard with a therapeutic hot tub, and an amazing gas grill. It’s on a corner lot, in a cute little neighborhood.

As our nation enters the year 2007, and the month of January hurtles into recent history, I am vigilant. My vacation holidays are coming to an end too quickly, so I glance at my calendar, hoping to see another respite from the daily grind in my near future. I can’t help it. It is in my nature not to want my little piece of paradise to come to an end. I click on Outlook during the weekends in January … I seem to remember a three day weekend here somewhere … no holidays? I think, when I finally got to the second weekend in January. Ah … There it is! I see that I have entered that my son has a three-day weekend starting on Saturday the thirteenth. But surely there must be a holiday in between? What is it? I think, as I click on Monday. AHA! Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! I knew there had to be a reason! I think to myself with a smile, proud of my diligence.

Yet the day wore on and this hint of unease persistently tugged at my conscience. As I went about my day, I couldn’t really pin down what it was. Perhaps, as each white woman reaches a certain age (over thirty, that is), she begins to remember all the wonderful nuggets of gold that she was taught as a child in parish school (okay, that part is just about me ). Or it could be, that as I begin to approach the last third of my life, the part beyond my “after thirty” years (I’ve always divided it that way: before thirty, after thirty. .. and beyond ….), that I have become more responsibly thoughtful? Perhaps I am more willing to allow information in my mind’s database that I determine is “important and objective”? However, there was no denying it. This pull of what is below my conscious mind would not rest.

It wasn’t until I finally stopped in my tracks while preparing a delicious pepper steak, topped with a shallot sauce and roasted zucchini, that I realized what it was. I was ashamed! When the sauce dripped from the spoon and I stared into space, I felt ashamed that not only did I not know that it was Martin Luther King, Jr. day that second weekend in January, but that I actually knew very little. about the man, and the reason why there was a day in his honor. Oh sure, I knew he was a great leader in the early stages of our nation’s Civil Rights Movement. He knew he was a loved, revered, and honored leader among whites and African Americans, who was brutally and senselessly murdered. But that was all he knew.

One could excuse my ignorance and absolve myself of all blame for simply being a victim of circumstance: I am a white woman, born in New Mexico (a predominantly Hispanic, Native American, and Caucasian state), growing up in a culturally protected environment.

Like all good schoolchildren my age, I learned all the basics about Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m sure they taught me some of the facts in depth, but somehow they had eluded me.

I sat in front of my computer and did a brief search on this man I knew little about. I learned that Martin Luther King was a very well-educated man (he earned a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate, and then went on to receive several honorary degrees as well). Here I was, a son of a private school (one of the best in the area), raised without the prejudices that many face every day, and a university degree had been reduced to the status of “long sought goal”, that called me from the distant caverns of my soul.

This man, at the age of thirty-five, became the youngest winner at that time, of the Nobel Peace Prize. He wasn’t a man of great resources, so I’m sure the prize money of over fifty thousand dollars would have lightened the load, if he hadn’t just helped cushion things a bit while raising his family, however, Mr. King chose to return his award. money for the promotion of the civil rights movement.

Not only was he well-mannered and extremely accomplished, he was a man of purpose who truly lived what he believed in and talked about.

So as I sit here at my home in Moab, preparing to serve up a zucchini pepper steak, I realize the irony of my thoughts about Martin Luther King, Jr. when compared to the reality of my existence. It would be easy to pass judgment and think Who is this white girl, with her privileged life, thinking that she can now relate to the cause of civil rights? But it is not necessary. I am not unaware of the fact that many of those Dr. King worked hard to free were impoverished and broken. They knew nothing of the advantages offered by someone like me and my protected school and parochial life. However, although Dr. King fought in the trenches against injustices towards his fellow man, he also shot himself with eagles. He respected men and women alike, rich or poor, well-educated or not. It would be more atrocious for me, in my “privileged” situation, not to write about this great man. It is much better for me to pay tribute to him, regardless of my social status or my level of ignorance about civil rights.

I am not one to ponder or spend valuable time on the reasons behind our nation’s vacation, but in the case of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am acutely aware of how much more my mind and conscience have been enriched. by doing so. I will always honor and revere the man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who overcame all obstacles to accomplish great things on behalf of his people and his race.

Aside from the continuing pursuit of our nation’s civil rights among all Americans, there is no other statement that can capture the greatness of the man, validating all that he stood for, than to name a national holiday for him. I am proud of my nation and my government for recognizing and choosing to honor a man of unmatched integrity, courage, and determination.

Copyright (c) 2007 Lisa Jey Davis