Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Black History Month: The Effects of the MLK Speech

"I Have a Dream" Opened My Eyes to the Real World

While working in her family's grocery store, a nine-year-old white girl in Sacramento, CA first learned about racism.  It began as a typical sweltering summer day filled with regulars buying their Nehi sodas and Camel cigarettes while a steady hum of soft music played from the store's radio.  My entire world spun around when the music stopped. 

It was August 28, 1963, and as Martin Luther King's booming voice shouted from the radio, "I have a dream", his passion and choice of words confused me.  Since I worked eight-plus hours each day when not in school, I knew little of the daily struggles our darker-skinned brothers and sisters faced.

Raised in a culturally rich neighborhood, I never noticed color.  In fact, at age five I befriended a local black man.  I had no father, wanted one, so I asked him if he wanted the job.  Good naturedly, he replied that we should ask my mother first.  I didn't understand the quirky smiles emanating from the two of them that day. 

After MLK's eye-opening speech, I realized that I lived in a sheltered, privileged world.  It was the first time I felt ashamed of my color.  

Picture: March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Joachim Prinz pictured, 1963; Source: Center for Jewish History; No known copyright restrictions

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