Life Lessons from The Civil Rights Movement

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Both Class and I have severe reverence for Dr. King, the work he did, and people he inspired and continues to inspire.  He remains one of the faces that you associate with fighting for and driving the change that all of us, not just African Americans to live a life with less limits than his time.

However, I don’t want to be the one to just post a video of the “I Have A Dream” speech and spam you with quotes.  I want to talk about a current lesson that I think we can apply from our ancestors and freedom fighters.

Recently, I’ve been dealing with some personal issues that sap my energy and motivation.  While I’m working to push past these feelings, I can’t pretend that there are not days where I just want to lay in bed and eat all of the Gummy Bears.

But in all fairness, what am I really dealing with on a day-to-day basis?  I don’t want to go in to work.  I don’t have exactly what I want to make for dinner.  My laundry is restricting my sleep because I refuse to fold it.

MLK and the other freedom fighters couldn’t go to the same grocery stores and lunch counters, and I’m complaining that we don’t have sea salt.

They sat at the back on the bus, meanwhile I’m pressed that the lady next to me on the train has a large coffee when I only ordered a small.

Children were sprayed with fire hoses and I’m mad at my subpar OKCupid matches.

While my annoyances are minute in the examples above, even the real problems that I deal with should not be compared to what my grandparents fought in the rural North Carolina.  I have two degrees from predominantly white institutions where my grandmother went to the “Negro” high school.  My aunt was the first African-American employee at the gas station on the white side of town, meanwhile my stomach is in knots over competitive jobs at Fortune 500 companies.

It’s not my (and by proxy, our generations’) problems are trivial.  It’s that the problems we face now were obtained and are caused by the solutions from the prior generations mettle, families, and blood.  These people risked their lives, their homes, and their jobs by refusing to settle and play nice.  They worked through the night around the country for basic human rights.  Their hard work was rewarded, even though times are still troubling and the fight isn’t over.

So I’m choosing today to look past my own personal selfishness.  I’m choosing to work through my sleep deprivation.  I may have to work on what I consider to be one of the most important holidays, but I’m choosing to be thankful for this employment and the opportunity to use my mind for work instead of my body.  All of our ancestors did not have that luxury and they did way more than what I’m expected to do.

What lessons do you pull from the legacy of the Civil Rights Movements?  Did you do anything special to celebrate?  Show us love in the poll below and let us know in the comments section or @ClassNTrashShow on Twitter.


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