Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. What might some kids say about him — besides his name getting them a day off from school. “He’s a black man from a long time ago.” Fifty years and more to be exact. “He has some famous speech.” Yes, “I Have a Dream” — he dreamt of skin color not mattering between people. “I think he got shot.” He did — on the balcony of his hotel room April 4, 1968. He died at only 39. Maybe kids think that sounds old — but they’ll find out.
My present family is made up of several races. White — which if you’d asked me through much of my life I would have said, “Well, my parents are white and their parents, and on and on. Same with my husband. It is who we are.” That dynamic changed seven years ago when our son married an African American girl from Texas. It changed again when they had three mixed-race children.
And 14 years before that, it changed when our daughter and husband adopted a Northern Eskimo, or Inupiat, baby where they were living in Barrow, Alaska. Now a Spokane resident, this girl is the only Alaska Native in her school of nearly 2,000 students.
Her dad — a police officer in the Arctic — took her last year to an Inupiat village where she has relatives. She was asked later how it was to be some place where “everybody looks like her.” She answered with complete sincerity, “Oh, I didn’t really notice.”
When — like our teen granddaughter — you are a person wading knee-deep into humanity to form meaningful relationships, you don’t notice — don’t care — about skin pigment or hair texture. I watch our multi-race family together. We all get along and the crowd of cousins play and “nobody notices.”
I suppose such a thing might appear astonishing to Dr. King had he been able to fast forward 50 years. Then again, he may have simply smiled and said to those around him, “Now, this is what I hoped for.”