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The N-Word Hits Home for One Mom

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Why the MLK Jr. holiday has new meaning for Mom•Logic friend Mama Noire.


Mama Noire says: "It is absolutely amazing the wonderful tidbits you learn when you actually close your mouth for a moment and stop to listen. I’ve known my father-in-law for 10 years, we speak almost daily, and I just found out last week that he sat in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown Charlotte during the civil rights movement and that he saw Martin Luther King speak in public. Huh? After all these years of discussing race, history, and politics with him I’ve never heard him say he was actually on the front line. Perhaps I wasn’t listening intently. Perhaps he just never told me before now.

It is disheartening to hear that when my father-in-law sat at the Woolworth’s lunch counter with the other activists, the waitresses stood back and flatly refused to serve them. He also told me that the angry segregationists in the back of the restaurant hissed and hollered the “N” word at them, and yet my father-in-law and others were not afraid to stand up for freedom despite the potential consequences.

I have to admit, I am proud to know that my father-in-law was a part of the civil rights movement. It’s the missing puzzle piece that finally makes the Martin Luther King holiday special and personal to me. As someone who was born in the 1970s and raised in an era where desegregation was the norm, I have never really felt connected to the civil rights movement—as difficult as that is to admit. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always been relieved and appreciative that I can eat at a restaurant without getting a bottle smashed over my head and can move about freely in this country without the fear of racist repercussions, for example. Still, I have always heard and read about the movement, but never felt intimately a part of it. Even though I wasn’t born when black people had to march and sit in for equal rights and basic freedoms, I know my father-in-law was there; he was a part of the movement; he has stories to tell our daughters; and a lot to teach me. And I have a lot to learn."

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14 comments so far | Post a comment now
LH January 21, 2008, 10:58 PM

You should be proud-what courage and strength of character it must of taken for him to sit there. It is these kinds of stories that we should all share with our children—thank you!

Anonymous January 28, 2008, 3:37 PM

listening is a skill most lack. it’s like an inherent selfishness perhaps, at a subconscious level. of course, so is the fact that we needed a civil rights movement to begin with. we can thank our forefathers and theirs for passing down a fearful ignorant mentality. the best we can do is stop the cycle with our generation and today’s children. like MLK, don’t just speak, ACT!

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