I recently learned of a reader sharing their dissatisfaction with my column. After all, who really cares about my kids and what I have to share about them?
The bad news (for them and those like them) is: I still hold this column space and a few people actually like/relate to some of what I write. The good news of course is this newspaper holds 23 other pages and this piece can easily be skipped.
So, for the five readers, plus my family who actually look for my face each week I’ll continue.
Last Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. That morning as I woke, before letting my feet hit the carpet and get the day started … I watched it.
As I listened, as I hung on every word I was many things. I was moved, inspired, dumbfounded and yes, even sad.
One of the things I love most about Dr. King and his story is really quite simple. His is the story of an ordinary man, who used his passion, his belief and his dedication to make big change. He believed in what he set out to accomplish. He was passionate about his journey and so too were so many.
This is the lesson I teach to my children.
Fortunately the notion of racism is inconceivable to them. For this…as their mom, as a human being…I am incredibly grateful. Their family is not exempt from ignorance (commonly referred to as racism), this I knew before they were born. I am grateful that to present day they do not echo words they hear when I’m not present, instead they are baffled.
As kids, it’s hard for them to fathom friends or family members not playing by their side, drinking from separate water fountains or not sitting beside them in an audience. This is an ignorance, I abundantly embrace.
My favorite week of learning at their school is MLK birthday week. It engages such amazing conversation in our house, our car and anywhere we might find examples of how life might have been different ‘back then.’
I still vividly remember these conversations with my mother from childhood. I was blessed (yes, blessed) to be raised in a family of varying cultures and heritage background. My mother’s friend pool was both varying and few looked ‘just like me.’ I truthfully did not even know what that meant until I grew older.
Of those many conversations I remember this one the most.
My mother and I were discussing the topic of MLK and Hitler. Yes, a very deep and scary conversation now that I think it over as a parent myself. The topic came at the hands of discussing my best friend Mari, who just happened to be Jewish. My mother used this as an example for segregation and what was deemed ‘acceptable’ versus what was shunned or even forbidden.
As a 10-year-old child the thought of not being at the side of my best friend because of something so ‘silly’ was plain inconceivable. I still remember my mom challenging me and asking, ‘What would you do? If a line of men, soldiers or others stood between you and Mari because she is Jewish and not ‘like you’ what would you do?’
My eyes still well up just thinking back to that question.
I still remember that lump in my throat as I said, ‘I would stand next to her.’ In that moment, as a 10-year-old child that is what I sincerely felt. If someone was going to harm or remove my friend, then I was going with her.
I’m grateful for that lesson. My mother was a child of that era. The era which now seems unimaginable. A young girl and woman being raised in Southern Illinois where ignorance was alive and well. She too was blessed by parents whose doors and hearts were open to all. I’m grateful for that.
But now what? We still have hurdles to conquer on this topic and I am hopeful that as more use their voice, as more speak to their children and all who will listen we will make headway.
As I write those words, my mind drifts from the topic of racial segregation and lands on segregation in general.
Now, as a mom, a daughter, a cousin, a friend and a writer my dream grows bigger. My hope in present day is that my children someday look back on the injustice served up to gay people as I do the days of MLK. My hope is that they see as I do…love is love. It is not our place to judge and ‘choice’ is not a relevant argument.
By definition segregation is defined: The policy or practice of separating people of different races, classes, or ethnic groups, as in schools, housing, and public or commercial facilities, especially as a form of discrimination.
Many will argue this. Some may write letters and I’m sure a few phone calls may be made to our Editor. Makes no difference. In this moment…I challenge you. I challenge you to see beyond today. To see beyond what you’ve been told since childhood. To open your heart and just…breathe.
What I realize now, as a ‘grown-up’ can best be summarized by returning to that conversation I shared with my mother at 10. I will stand behind or beside what I believe to be right. I will not hide behind an interpretation of something I do not believe to be true. I will embrace the fact that I pray to a loving God. A God accepting and protecting of all men, women and children. I will stand beside my gay friends and family members just as I would my friend Mari (who happens to be Jewish).
We’ll save the topic of the Constitution for another day. Ultimately it gets back to MLK. One simple man who changed much of life as we know it. I challenge us all to be brave enough to just be a tenth of the man that he was.
In the meantime, know this: I promise you…if you are a parent, a sister, brother, cousin or friend and the day comes when someone you love shares ‘I am gay’ they will not be alone. I will stand beside them. That’s a promise.
Teresa Hammond is circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.