Martin Luther King and My Son

Daddy, why did that White Boy not like Martin Luther King?”

That is how the conversation began. I was prepared to discuss this but a little surprised with the next question

Daddy, why did that White Boy kill Martin Luther King? My teachers were confused, he didn’t die, he was shot.”

Technically, he was correct. Dr. King was murdered but I didn’t expect a five-year-old to be discussing murder in class. Upon further discussion I found out that they had not. It was a classmate who told him about the real reasons for Dr. Kings demise.

I wasn’t upset about that, but I had planned on waiting a little while until we had the discussion about murder based upon race/ethnicity/religion. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t think that it is important to discuss this. Sadly the specter of race/religion overshadows our lives as Americans and Jews.

It made me a little sad to have this discussion. I explained to him why it is important to judge people based upon their actions and not their color, but he asked me again.

Daddy, why did that White Boy not like Martin Luther King?”

I did my best to give him a simple explanation that would impart a lesson and satisfy his curiosity. Not to mention that I tried to find out where he came up with a description like white boy.

It is not how we speak at home. And while the majority of our friends and family are white we do socialize on a regular basis with people who are not white/Jewish etc. And it is also one of the reasons that we made sure that he participates in activities in which he is exposed to lots of different kinds of people. My children are never going to fear someone who looks different, at least that is the plan and the goal. I don’t suffer bigots or bigotry.

The conversation continued.

Are you never going to kill anyone? Have you killed anyone? Would you kill anyone?

Nothing like being peppered with the easy questions, but I did answer all of them. As we sat their speaking it occurred to me that I could help him by using the net to locate some pictures and audio of Dr. King.

So I found an MP3 of Dr. King’s “I have a Dream speech” which was delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. I get chills listening to that speech. There is a story behind that but I’ll save that for a different time. Here is one of my favorite excerpts from Dr. King’s speech. It is also probably the best known.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of
Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!”

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

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