Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dr. Martin Luther King and Joe Montana

When my son was in the 4th grade, one of his assignments was to write a book report within 21 days. Writing the report was not a big deal to him; it was selecting the right book for the report. So, I took him to the public library in search of the perfect book. He insisted on just skimming through the shelved books, but after a half hour, I enlisted the librarian. She smiled and said, “I have the perfect book for you.” We followed her, passing book case after book case until she arrived at her destination. Both of us watched in anticipation as her willowy index finger attached itself to the top of a book and gently eject it from the shelf. 

The librarian presented the book to my son. I was pleased. On the cover of the book was a little African American boy around the same age as my son. “This is great!” I thought. “They celebrate diversity here.” I thanked the librarian, and my glaring look at my son prompted him to bluntly let loose an obligatory thank you. His face was a picture of disappointment.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

My son replied that he did not want the book, and to validate his rejection, he laid it next to the neatly shelved books. 

The librarian had not noticed that my son was a 9-year old boy. She noticed that he was an African American 9-year old boy and had selected a book accordingly--without inquiring about his interests. If she had inquired, she would have learned that he loved tarantulas, mysteries, and Joe Montana—all of which had nothing to do with race. You see, to my son, Joe Montana was simply the greatest quarterback in the NFL. He was The Comeback King. He was Joe Cool.

I realize the power of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Those words helped me shape my son’s life. Race has never defined him. Because of Dr. King, my son, who is now a grown man, can still see beyond the color of a person’s skin. And Joe Montana is still simply Joe Montana--one of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL.

How has Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. influenced your life? This is the story in you. Share it.


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