I work for a company that purports itself to be big on diversity.
Actually, I guess I shouldn’t say it that way. We rank 90% on the Human Rights Campaign‘s 2012 Buying for Workplace Equality guide. The company provides Domestic Partner benefits, financial benefits for adoption services. We allowed same-sex couples to visit their spouses in the hospital before it was federally mandated. Our physicians are trained and encouraged to respect other cultures and their alternative belief systems in regard to medical care. Periodically, we are required to attend sensitivity and cultural diversity awareness training. So, I guess they are pretty big on diversity.
It is for this reason, that I find it fascinating that I AM NOT OFF WORK TODAY. What the hell, man!?!? I think if the mail doesn’t run and the bank is closed and kids are out of school, I should not have to work either. Whatever.
The truth is, I think the significance of this “holiday” is lost on a lot of people, these days anyway, and as the time goes on, it will be lost on more and more people. Not because Martin Luther King Jr. doesn’t matter. Not because what he did for this country isn’t invaluable, but because as time goes on and we age, it’ll be harder and harder for the surviving members of our population to imagine what this country was like before MLK did his thing.
I remember learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. in school. I remember the first time I heard the “I have a dream” speech:
I have a dream that one day…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I looked around my classroom at the faces of the non-white boys and girls in my classroom and I thought, “how could it ever have been different.” Certainly I was naive, but I couldn’t imagine a world where people were mistreated for their differences. It’s funny how things change.
In my book, there’s a scene when Calvin (the lead character who is in no way based on my own existence and any similarities that may exist are entirely coincidental – *whistle, whistle, whistle*) has gone home to visit his family for Thanksgiving. His sister Haley picks him up from the airport and as they are chatting on the way to their mother’s house, she tells him she’s dating a black man and “mom doesn’t know.” It was something Calvin should not, and would not want to, tell their mother.
In reality, my sister did briefly date a black man in college and she never told my mother he was black, largely because of her reaction when our older brother dated a black woman when he was in college. Our mother insisted, and for the most part, I really do believe, that she is not prejudice, that she doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with interracial relationships, she would just rather her children not engage in them “because of the hardships you’ll endure because of them.” The fact that my brother’s girlfriend was also, “a witch” and that her brother turned out to be gay (while attending a Christian University), were certainly not points in her favor…
I can’t help but wonder what my mother’s reaction would be if I ended up married to a black man. Would that be two strikes against him, or has even she progressed enough not to care about race any longer. The fact that he would be male, would be problem enough for her.
Anyway, a world where black people were not treated as a welcome and equal member of society was just unimaginable to me in my naive, teen years. I didn’t think discrimination existed in this country any longer… And then I realized I was gay and it was a whole new ballgame. But that’s a different story.
I knew my commute would be light today and I was glad for that; I was running late yet again! As I rounded the corner to the parking garage entrance I thought how nice it will be for the garage not to be so full for once. Once again, naiveté rears its ugly head. Nobody parks in this garage but employees of the company for which I work. Today is not a holiday at the company for which I work. The garage was as full as ever.
At lunch, I had two errands to run; buy cat food and pick up a library book that’s on hold for me at the branch by my house, four miles away. I bought the cat food first, three miles in the opposite direction…
So like I was saying, if the mail doesn’t run and the bank is closed and kids are out of school and the library is closed, I should not have to work either.