Dear White Parents: We need to tell our kids the truth about MLK.

Dear White Parents,

Today is the day this country has set aside to celebrate Martin Luther King. Likely your kids are home from school and you are off of work. Likely you slept in. Maybe you are going to a place to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King by picking up trash or packing sandwiches for your neighbors in need. That is good. I am glad you are doing that. I need you to know that isn’t enough. This year, to honor MLK you need to, at the very least, tell the truth to your children.

Martin Luther King DID have a dream, and I am glad that they know that, but they need to know that that dream STILL isn’t realized. If their school is primarily white, they need to know that was probably not some kind of happy accident. They need to know that schools that are primarily brown and black are not being supported in the same way their school is. Yes, I mean your kindergartener. Yes I mean your senior in high school. Kids know about not fair, they understand that everyone should get a turn, and the same amount of stuff. They get that. What they might not know (because you haven’t told them) is that things ARE NOT fair EVEN NOW. They might now know that the system didn’t magically fix itself, things are basically as unequal now as they were then.

Martin Luther King was well liked now but was hated when he died. He wasn’t popular. He wasn’t seen as a peacemaker. He was seen as an agitator who wasn’t going about racial justice the “right” way. Very many people who believed that his ideas were good, also believed he should ask nicer, and be patient. Sound familiar? It should. This rhetoric is used today. If you want to honor Dr. King today, tell your kids that saying someone isn’t asking nice enough is a classic power move. It is used to not have to give people what they deserve.

Martin Luther King was not BFF with white people. He was seriously irritated with the white moderates who told him they liked what he was saying but were absolutely unwilling to give up any of their power or privilege. If they are up for it (they probably ARE) read them letter from Birmingham Jail. Or you read it and break it down for them.

We have to stop white washing Dr. King and his messages. We have to stop telling our kids the things that we wish were true, and avoiding the uncomfortable. We need to tell them the truth.

When one of my girls was in Pre-K she came home and told me that the reason MLK was important was he allowed her to go to her majority black school. And can I tell you that for a minute I thought about letting her think that? That MLK was for her and her friends being nice to each other. But that wasn’t true. And so I let her know that because of our privilege we would be fine, but her friends wouldn’t. I told her that he was fighting for black people and their rights, and I told her we could fight too, if we wanted, but we weren’t at the heart of his dream. She got it. She could handle it.

If you are still willing to say that your kids aren’t ready to hear any of this, then I need you to think about yourself, about where you fit in. Why not? We have to be honest with our kids, and that honesty starts with ourselves. If you are unwilling to give up power and privilege for a more just society for all, then say that to yourself. Dr. King, and your children deserve that much.

On Attending to the Ordinances of God

I thought maybe this was the year I stopped having a one word. I have been doing it since 2012. I still think of my year of Unashamed as a key year in a lot of ways. It was the year I started leaning into who I am. It turns out I really like myself. The year I chose WHOLE and then went on prozac is also a highlight. Two years ago I got PERSIST and then just had to truck through life, get through it. Last year I had ART and I spent December covered in paint and very happy about it. I love painting things. But maybe this was a practice that didn’t serve me anymore and maybe that was okay.

But it is a practice that serves me. For awhile I was leaning toward EMBODY. I have the tendency to push my way through life, to just keep going. This isn’t good for my body, it means I live in my head a lot, and it means I am often just doing the thing in front of me while thinking about getting to the next thing. I am not exactly present at any of it. I am just keeping it moving. It being me? Why? I don’t know. But if you asked me how I was sometime in the last three years or so I probably told you I was tired.

I started writing when Juliet was just a baby. I got serious about it when Priscilla came along and my husband went to Grad school. It taught me to pay attention to myself, to my own life, to the things that mattered to me. It taught me to be present in a moment, even if it was just so I could write about it later. I am grateful to blogging for that. I don’t know who or where I would be without it.

It also taught me to pay attention at all times to all the things happening in all the circles of the internet. Pay attention to things that really aren’t my concern. Pay attention to the drama and the fighting and the discontent, not my OWN discontent mind you, just everyones all the time.

I don’t want to do that anymore. I only have so much attention and I don’t want to spend it on other people’s lives. I want to start paying attention, to my body, to my marriage, to my kids, to my art, to my writing. I want to pay attention to the things that feed me, and let go of the rest even if they ARE good things, they might not be the best things for me.

The Methodists have three rules (thanks John Wesley) 1. Do no Harm 2. Do Good 3. Attend to the ordinances of God. When attend popped into my head I knew it was mine because the way I want to use it is kind of old school and deeply methodist. I want to attend to the things God has for me. I want to do Good (and no harm obviously) but I also want MY good. MY life, the one I show up to. And I have to be in attendance. I have to pay attention to what God has for me.