You guys know that I love to keep it light around here, but bear with me as I get a little heavy.
On Friday evening as I was packing up my personal items to leave work, I overheard a conversation in the next cubicle.
Woman: “I can’t believe we have Monday off. I can’t believe it! I had no idea!”
Man: “You didn’t know? You can still come in if you want!” (jokingly)
Woman: “I really had no clue”
Man: “yeah we are off.”
Woman: (annoyed) “so you mean to tell me that we don’t get the day after Thanksgiving off but we get freaking Martin Luther King Day off? Are you kidding me?”
They must have realized that the African American girl with very good hearing was close by because the conversation promptly went to whispers.
I grabbed my bag and I left. Fully intending on enjoying my three day weekend that celebrates what Martin Luther King Jr did for all of us.
At first her comments made me furious. I felt so disrespected by it all. I took it so personally that she compared the celebration and recognition of this amazing civil rights leader to… Black Friday.
I don’t need to outline what Martin Luther King has done for this country, I respect your intelligence. However, we all know that Racism is not dead in this country. I don’t think this particular person is a racist–however, to have such disregard for the reason for the day then to complain about it in a way that makes the holiday seem incredibly insignificant compared to a day of shopping is simply unacceptable.
Let this serve as a reminder to all of us that we should always remember what MLK did for us, did for our country. I don’t know if we will be as united as what his dream outlined, but we can certainly be proud that we have made significant process thanks to the foundation that he has helped lay.
Do you guys remember that episode of Girlfriends when Joan fought to get the law firm to close the office for the Martin Luther King holiday? We need people to understand why this day is so important for African Americans and in larger part, to the entire country. It’s so much more than just a day off.
As the only African American woman in my department I can tell you stories of the things I’ve witnessed and heard. I mean stories. Like shock you to your core type of ignorance. I can actually fill an entire book, and I know a lot of my peers that can do the same. Working in Corporate America is not easy when you are a black woman. There are so many delicate situations, stereotypes that we work so hard to avoid, buttons that are pushed–it is a very very tricky puzzle to solve. Despite all of that? We do it. And we do it well.
It would have been very easy for me to share my opinion with the person, watch her closely as she began to backtrack with the expected regret eventually saying something along the lines of I didn’t mean it that way. Would it really be worth it? Likely not.
In the meantime, if you have a few minutes, listen to the speech that you really can’t hear enough of–and take some time to reflect on why we have Monday off.