My Own Reflections on Dr. King's Legacy
I'm afraid my reflections don't offer a very flattering view of me. Don't get me wrong: I grew up believing Dr. King to be a great hero of civil rights. My own parents always had flattering things to say about Dr. King and made sure that I grew up with a knowledge of what he accomplished and ultimately sacrificed for the notion that "All men are created equal".
Nevertheless, I hearken back to the days in the mid-80s when there was much debate over the creation of a national holiday to honor Dr. King. I was in high school at the time and, despite my admiration for the man and his legacy, I - like, regrettably, many conservatives at that time - opposed the creation of a national holiday in his honor. I'm not sure I even remember why at this point. Vaguely, I remember thinking along the lines that there was no day to honor many other great Americans, and that even Washington and Lincoln's birthdays had been subsumed into the generic "President's Day" holiday, so why should we create a day to honor Dr. King?
Whatever reasons I offered then, my memory of which Time has mercifully dulled, I can distinctly recall the Moment that all changed.
During either my Jr. or Sr. year in high school, I was at rehearsal for a school play that our drama club was performing. At a point in the rehearsal in which our presence on stage was not required, I was having a conversation with a very dear friend of mine, Trecia - who happens to be African-American, about the proposals for a holiday to honor Dr. King. At one heated point in the discussion, and out of frustration that Trecia wasn't buying my arguments, I blurted out "What did Martin Luther King ever do for me?"
The look on Trecia's face immediately provided the answer. She said nothing and sadly walked away. I'll never forget that Moment as long as I live. For, in that Moment, I realized that Dr. King's legacy - and what he had done for me - was Trecia herself.
Without Dr. King, Trecia would doubtfully have even been there at our school in an East Texas that has more in common with the Deep South than it does the rest of the state. Without Dr. King, no doubt Trecia and I would never have known each other or been friends at all.
After sitting there a few moments, shamed and embarassed by my rash words and by my now-previous opposition to a King holiday, I went over to Trecia and abjectly apologized to her. She accepted my apology, and we hugged, but I somehow knew something had changed in our relationship. We remained close throughout our days in high school, but I think there was a barrier there that had not been there before. To this day, I regret what I said to her. But, if some good came of it, my opposition to honoring Dr. King with a holiday ended then and there.
Long live the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. And may his dream be realized.
Good thing I didn't tell that story to a hostile crowd:
McCain Booed While Apologizing for Voting Against King Holiday.