When I (Julie) was 3-years-old, my best friend was a Black girl named Naomi. I don't remember what we did together, but I remember a strong bond of friendship with her. I asked for a Black cabbage patch doll, and named it Naomi after her. Before I began kindergarten, my family moved to a mostly (if not all) White neighborhood, and attended schools that looked the same. In my ivory cave growing up, I thought that racism was dead, not realizing that I was just sheltered from it.
It was not until I began dating my husband (Demetrius) that I was exposed to racism as it lives today. Demetrius would talk about memories that involved discrimination and prejudice, and I listened with a degree of skepticism. I originally thought he was over-reacting, but I began to pay attention. He was pulled over while driving for "looking lost" and overlooked for promotions that he more than earned. He was called names by strangers, and we were given dirty looks when together. I am no longer skeptical.
Over 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated for how he lived and what he believed. His legacy is what people make of it. Those who wish to trample on his memory, will do so. Those who wish to embody his spirit, will do so. The man was not perfect, but he strove for equality.
Prejudice is ingrained in our society in fundamental ways we do not realize. Kenneth and Mamie Clark's famous doll experiment demonstrated how even children perceive individuals of one race as good or bad. Beyond race, individuals experience REAL discrimination and prejudice for their gender, sexual orientation and identity, religion, political beliefs, family values, marital status, socio-economic status, education level, etc.
As we honor MLK Jr., and prepare for Black History Month, THRIVE encourages you to reflect on your own beliefs, values, and lifestyle in the service of equality.