Martin Luther King Day
There are so many emotions tied to this holiday this year of 2009. As a writer of African American and biracial characters in LOVE ON THE LINE, I've been thinking about what the holiday has meant in years past. What rose to the top of my thoughts is this: it's not so much about the past, it’s about our present and future. This year, finally, the holiday will take its rightful place as an “American Holiday,” not just one added for African Americans.
Among the many things that the election of President Obama has done for this nation of peoples is to offer us a chance to be Americans first. In doing so, Dr. King becomes an American hero, first and foremost. He helped our country move past its most shameful history to strive for the best we can be.
Are we all glad that slavery and segregation and nationalized hatred have been abolished? Of course we are. All Americans can take pride in that achievement, just as we do in any American victory, be it an Olympic champion or a walk on the moon. We smile and say, “An American did that. One of us!” Obama's election is, simply put, the spirit of equality put into action.
That doesn't mean that many of us don't still wrestle with what it means to be American versus being a member of a particular ethnic or social or even religious group within our greater society. In LOVE ON THE LINE, my character Thea Morgan, a light-skinned African American wife, business woman, and mother, struggles with the issue of her identity as not been "seen" as black enough in both her personal and business life. Her biracial daughter Jesse, has similar, yet different, issues to resolve. Can you be part of two equal halves? Should you choose? Should you have to?
These are very real personal dramas that occur everyday all over the U. S. I worked from my own experience as a light-skinned African American, as well as those of many different people I know of many backgrounds. Just as Jesse and Thea work out how to live their best lives, my hope is that we all come to accept that with all our differences, and interests, and ways of expressing ourselves, we truly are, at the end of every day, one nation, indivisible. Happy Birthday, Dr. King. Happy New Year, America.
How do you feel about this holiday and what it represents? Do you think that personal struggles, and we all have them, reflect national attitudes? Or is it just part of growing up for each of us to have to try to define ourselves against the culture in which we grow up? I'd really love to hear your thoughts on these very provocative and important issues.