My Name is Martin.
Racial segregation. The idea sickens me. I try to imagine growing up under the horrors of segregation. I try to imagine how it must feel to not be allowed to go where others go, eat where others eat, drink from the same drinking fountains others drink from, use the bathroom that others use. I try to imagine how it could not hurt badly… how it could not scar deeply.
I close my eyes and see the face of a young boy, my age in 1968, but with skin of darker brown. I look deep into his eyes. I see him pressing his face up against the glass, looking longingly at what others have, that he does not. What he may never be allowed to have. I see him questioning… why? And I want to weep. I want to stop him from hurting. Save him from that pain. I want to scream louder than any scream that has ever been heard… Nooooooooooo! I am ashamed of my country for its policy of racial segregation. And I am seven years old.
I didn’t see racial segregation with my own eyes. If I had, I’m quite sure that it would have burned an impression into my soul that could never have been removed. I don’t know how you grow up and make it through something like that. Do you always feel uncomfortable… always… forever? Do you look at everyone and wonder what they’re thinking about you? Will you always be angry, no matter what? Do you wake up every morning and wonder how it could be that such injustice is allowed to happen?
Today is Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
As a young boy I learned of Dr. King from my parents at home, and from teachers in school. He was fighting racial segregation… fighting for civil rights. He was strong. Immeasurably strong. Strong like Superman was strong. He had a dream. He was right. He was a hero to so many. He was a hero to me.
Martin King would not back down from what must have seemed like insurmountable odds. Nor would he allow himself to express the rage he must have felt as much as any. He was the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to fight discrimination and racial segregation through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. He was the greatest kind of American. Because of what he did, what he stood for, what he accomplished… because of him we are the country we are today. Without him we are nothing.
Martin King was a man of faith. Faith in the United States of America. Faith in its people. Faith in all of us. Faith in me. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be that strong… some day.
Then he was assassinated. Shot. Killed. It was April 4th, 1968. My mother cried. My father did not want to talk about it. I could not understand how… why… I wanted to shoot the person who had shot him. I learned about death from Martin King. I learned about peace from Martin King. I learned about hope from Martin King. I learned about struggle from Martin King. I learned about my country from Martin King. I learned to love and I learned to hate hate because of Dr. King.
Yes, today is his day and he deserves this day as much if not more than any other for whom a day is named… he earned this day… gave his life for this day. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill that made today Dr. King’s day. He didn’t want to though, but he had no choice. Many others fought against this day. I’m sure now they wish they hadn’t.
I was eight years old one month after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left this world forever. They sang happy birthday to me, and I was called Marty for the very last time. Because from that day forward… for the rest of my life… I told everyone…
My name is MARTIN.