This year I went to Washington DC with a student group to tour many of the monuments and museums that teach about our country, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s. One evening, as the sun was setting and darkness settled, I walked with a group of 7th and 8th graders past the Mountain of Despair and explored the Stone of Hope. We saw Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. carved into the Stone and listened to a recording of him speaking. As a flood of emotions overtook me, I read the quotations carved into marble that helped to change the nation. Seeing it situated with Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln’s memorials showed the respect our nation has for Dr. King. His quotes carved into the pink marble created a firestorm of emotions: grief, self reflection,guilt, hope.
Looking at our history and the present day reality of the differences between my experiences and those of my peers from different cultural and racial backgrounds, I feel grief. Two of the most impressive women I know come from backgrounds wildly different from mine. Both were born in African countries. One is the first play therapist for a nation whose mean age is adolescent, and the other is an engineer who has worked with some of the most advanced group of scientists in the world. These women show amazing intellect, of course, but a faith that astounds me every time I see them. 50 years ago, their accomplishments would have been in different countries and they could not have graced the US with their presence. My grief comes from the truth that I only get to know about them and benefit from their accomplishments because our country has changed the way it treats their ethnicity. My grief is further compounded by the truth that their accomplishments and gifts are still overlooked and dismissed by some. I am grieving that we have stripped so many of possibilities from people simply due to ethnicity and race. I grieve that we have lost so much as a nation and can be so blind as a people.
Confronted with Dr. King’s quote:
“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
I must ask myself, have I made a career of humanity? Have I committed myself to equality? Each of us should take today to weigh in the balance what we have done today, yesterday, last week, last year to make our nation greater.
In my self reflection, it became obvious I did not meet that high goal Dr King set. As a company, Acorn does not yet serve as diverse a population as is needed to reach Denton County. Personally, I need to know more about the experiences of my peers, my clients, and my friends who do not share my background. Because of my background, I continue to struggle to identify the race and cultural heritage of people with whom I work and socialize. And I’m embarrassed at times to ask. My guilt doesn’t come from the actions of others, but from my lack of action and the responsibility I have because of my place in society.
When I was a kid, I watched G I Joe with my brothers. The Public Service Announcement they used always sings in my head at moments like these: Knowing is half the battle. G I Joe! Dr. King’s words and his life showed us the possibilities that have been stripped from those around us. He proved through his life and sadly, through his death, that self reflection for each of us is necessary. His life, and the civil rights struggle, show the guilt we have for our inaction. But Dr. King gives us hope for the future. Dr King gives us light to dispel the darkness and those amazing people I have met give us the opportunity to ‘make a better person of yourself.’
Acorn moves to serve a wider community and learn more about people from other cultures. We are committed to having a variety of cultures and backgrounds in our therapists to help reach more communities. And God has sent some amazing people to talk with me, to educate me, to help me to learn more. Share your story with us in the comments below. Knowing about your background will help us work effectively with your neighbor. Read these quotations. Think about them. Let us know how you feel after reading them.