As most of us know, the third Monday of each January is the day that is meant to honor and reflect upon the legacy of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His life and teachings have provided us with a blueprint on tolerance, love and finding courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Being the proud father of two biracial children, I am especially grateful to Dr. King and the others who fought for our basic right to freely live and love. And as such, I’ve always felt a particular obligation to ensure my kids will be educated about the Civil Rights Era, so they can understand just how far we’ve come.
So the other day I sat my 5 year old down in order to discuss just that.
Me: Do you know why we celebrate MLK day?
Son: He brought all of the White people and Black people together.
Me: That’s right! It’s because of him that I was able to marry mommy. Without people like Dr. King and all of the other people during that time who realized that it wasn’t right to keep people apart like that, I probably would have married a Black woman and mommy probably would’ve had to marry a White man.
Son: Okay, so that just means I wouldn’t be tan anymore, right?
Me: Actually, it means that you wouldn’t have been born at all because you grew in mommy’s belly and I helped make you. If that doesn’t happen, then you wouldn’t exist.
Son: (pauses in thought) Huh? How did you help make me if I grew in mommy’s belly?
Me: Well, when a man and a woman love each other very much, they, uh, come together and sometimes God puts a baby is put into the woman’s belly.
Son: But HOW?? It doesn’t make sense.
Me: ...You’ll understand when you’re older.
After some persuading, he was eventually satisfied with our conversation and (thankfully) I narrowly averted giving him the “Birds and the Bees” speech to my son about 10 years too early. The important mission however, has been accomplished. He understands that Martin Luther King is more than just an extra day off of school. It’s a day to think about those who came before us with dreams so precious, they were willing to lay down their lives in order to make them a reality.