The One With The Ignorant Conversation About Martin Luther King

You guys know that I love to keep it light around here, but bear with me as I get a little heavy.

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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.

Really?

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.

Nellie

Nellie

Mommy. Fitness Addict. Socialite.
Schnelle "Nellie" Acevedo is a busy mom of two young boys (2 and 5), she is a career woman by day and a self proclaimed fitness junkie by night. Brooklyn Active Mama is  a positive community that focuses on demonstrating to all women that you can always find time for fitness. She features a Weekly Wednesday Workout and a Friday Fitness Check-in series where she encourages her readers to check in and remain accountable for their fitness and nutrition goals weekly. Nellie also is a co-founder of the annual A Healthy U Conference which is a conference dedicated to helping women improve their mental, spiritual and physical health. In addition to getting in the gym 5 times weekly, Nellie is a licensed Zumba instructor in Brooklyn. Since beginning to blog Nellie has lost 27lbs (and counting)! You can find Nellie on TwitterInstagramFacebookPinterest, & Google Plus.
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Comments

  1. I know exactly how you felt, I once overheard this comment “we are not going to have a Kwanzaa tree and all that nonsense at this event” when referring to a corporate holiday party. How ignorant is that and what the what is a Kwanzaa tree?! Unfortunately, I don’t have Monday off because it is not a holiday for the company I support. Have a wonderful weekend and a good “Service Monday”.
    Antionette Blake recently posted…Weekend Wind-Down Party #WWDPartyMy Profile

  2. My iPad just gave me such trouble leaving you a comment, so I jumped on my laptop quickly just to thank you for re-sharing the video here with us tonight and let you know that these ladies sound ridiculously ignorant and in serious need of a damn good history lesson. Just angers me that people still in this day and age don’t get the bigger picture. Again thanks for sharing and wishing you a wonderful weekend now.
    Janine recently posted…CampusBookRentals to Help Ease the Biggest Lines I Have Ever SeenMy Profile

  3. it always amazes me that in this day in age (2014) the racial ignorance is still alive in people. all you can do is keep it moving and not let one persons ignorance affect what you know is the truth. i am so happy you posted this. It’s real, necessary and timely.
    Losing in the City recently posted…Health Coach Friday’s – 100 Days At The GymMy Profile

  4. Wow, even if she didn’t “mean” it … For it to come out of her mouth means there is complete ignorance and lack of respect. What is wrong with people? It’s funny because I’ve stopped saying in this day and age because unfortunately I think that ignorance will be around forever.

  5. Arggghh. That’s all I can say about that. Stupid. People. Ignorant.
    Scarlet asked me all about the meaning. She heard the word “holiday” and her ears were all perked. She asked, “What do we do on this day?” I said, “We stay home and we talk about him. We talk about what he said and believed. We hold it in our hearts.”
    I will drill that in my kids’ heads, but something tells me I won’t have to. She gets it.
    Tamara recently posted…Cry Me a Frozen Whovian River.My Profile

  6. I’ve heard similar complaints about the bank not being open. I’ve a few issues over the years at work but I am quick to get EVERYBODY all the way together…lest they not remember the class action suit that was settled with my company the first year I was hired :) I am not standing for any of it. I just feel that people fought to hard and I worked to hard, you will respect wether you like it or not!
    Joi recently posted…If You’re Happy and You Know it, Just Say NoMy Profile

  7. That is a totally uneducated, selfsh conversation. My boss and I recently had tge exact opposite conversation because he is shocked the office is not closed.
    Carla recently posted…#OneChange For Better HealthMy Profile

  8. Oh boy. I totally understand your frustration because like you, I have heard ridiculous comments from people that aren’t bad or mean, they are just ignorant of the ridiculousness of their words. Hopefully you will be able to talk to her without her getting defensive (which is very hard to do sometimes). I find that some of the best conversations I have had with people is when I have asked, “Can you tell me what you meant by…” and I say it with a huge smile. If they are willing to talk about it, things go well. If not, then I keep it moving. Good on you for

  9. Happy Saturday Sharefest! And Happy MLK day! Sorry you had to go through this, don’t let Ignorant people ruin your weekend!
    Star Forbis recently posted…Give Me Five: Life Lessons We Could Learn From Dennis Rodman!My Profile

  10. Damn, that’s messed up. I think this is a pretty worthwhile holiday to celebrate! Now, I would like to know why we have a holiday to celebrate Columbus…but that’s probably opening up another can of worms. :P
    Martha recently posted…Seven ways to grow your blog, part six: Reach out (networking)My Profile

  11. Thanks for posting and kudos for you to holding your tongue. Unfortunately older generations don’t get it…and there are ignorant people in the world.

    My 4 year old just asked me why she had Monday off, and I’ve been trying to figure it out how to explain to her. She notices that her friends skin colors are different, but we talk about how beautiful all the different colors are. I don’t know if she’s too little to share the stories of segregation in the past with now or not, but I had planned on showing her MLK’s speech. So THANKS for sharing it…and have a FAB day off!
    Kristen recently posted…VIDEO: Career Day Miami HEATMy Profile

  12. Nellie, I’m sorry that anyone would be so uncaring – you are right, Martin Luther King did wonders for all of us no matter what race we might be. It is sad that racism still enters into things. I have never understood it.
    I’m glad you shared the speech because it is something that we need to remember more than just once a year!!
    Enjoy your 3 day weekend!!!
    Kim recently posted…Hug Your Loved Ones TightMy Profile

  13. Nellie – I can not agree with you more in that it is such an important holiday and Dr. King is a man who should be honored and remembered – always. For what he did not only for African Americans but for equality in general. I sometimes waver though about whether or not it should be a day off from school. I would almost rather see the schools ditch their regular curriculum for an entire day and devote a whole day of programming on Dr King and equal rights – versus it be a day where we find good sales at the malls. I wish there were a more appropriate way to honor the day and honor him…if that makes any sense. But yes, I do agree that regardless what we do with that day, there should be a day that belongs to him. And no, prejudice is not dead. I can’t imagine the things you have overheard. It’s interesting – I’m Jewish but don’t “look” Jewish or have a Jewish name so people regularly have made comments to me about Jewish people without realizing who they’re talking to. Is that prejudice or ignorance or a little bit of both? Hugs girl.
    Ilene recently posted…Saying Goodbye to the Skull CapMy Profile

    • Right I would even love if the kids had a whole day devoted to MLK, either way as long as he is being honored I don’t mind. I can only imagine the things you have heard. hugs.

  14. That sad part about it is, she knows what she said was wrong because she started whispering. People can be unbelievable sometimes. I feel for the many woman and other people of any race where they are brown or “colored” who have experienced racism in corporate America. The place where I worked right before I had JR, I can honestly say was a bit better in that area. I’ve only had black female bosses- 3 different ones to be exact, and they all seemed to think highly of the company and our opportunities there. Maybe they didn’t tell me everything they had experienced, but at the same time, it was nice to not have to feel like I couldn’t move up or do certain things because I was a black woman in the company.
    Brittnei recently posted…Emotional Yet ThankfulMy Profile

  15. Racial ignorance is alive and well in America. And when people say it isn’t, they get the blank stare.
    LaShawn recently posted…Which One?My Profile

  16. Sadly, some people will never see why holidays like MLK, Jr Day and Black History Month are needed for our culture. That’s why it’s up to us to recognize the importance and fight to keep these holidays and observances going. There are still millions upon millions of ignorant people in our society. All we can do is educate our children and pray that one day this changes.
    K. Elizabeth recently posted…5 On FridayMy Profile

  17. Fantastic post Nellie. People never cease to amaze me with their pure ignorance. I am so glad you wrote this, because this day is important. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a hero, who genuinely changed our country for the better…and we still have lots of work to do!-Ashley
    thedoseofreality recently posted…Would You Rather: Listen To The Wiggles Or Kidz Bop?My Profile

  18. Dr. King should be honored and remembered. The radio played his speech this morning and it was such a joy to hear it. I think we need reminder that this is not just another “day off” but it is a day to honor someone who had a huge impact on history.
    Michelle recently posted…#AskAwayFriday with Beth from Structure in an Unstructured LifeMy Profile

  19. I have been here before. It is so hard to be the only spot in the buttermilk. Especially when it’s your job. You can’t get upset or passionate about something because you will be
    labeled ‘angry black woman’. And had you confronted them the tables could have been turned around to make you look like the aggressor. I wish you well at your job. Believe me, I know it can be tough. Keep your head up and stay strong.

    • Girl YES YES YES to the ABW title. I work SO HARD not to ever get that title, even though sometimes, they push me. :) I totally would have looked like the aggressor. Thank you so much for understanding and for your encouragement.

  20. It’s sickening that those type of conversations are happening all over our country. People have forgotten the struggles of the past, and sadly there are children growing up today who are totally clueless about the struggles and hardships people had to overcome for them to have what they do today. It’s sad and I can only pray that someone takes initiative to keep those memories alive. Some things are never meant to be taken for granted….
    Law_Fal recently posted…24.My Profile

  21. Hi Nellie! Visiting from your SITS tribe and just wanted to say that this post was so great! I can’t understand not being aware of and appreciating what Dr. King did for our whole country. Definitely much more important than Black Friday shopping!
    Amanda H recently posted…Meal Prep Monday – Blueberry Almond Flax Muffins and Road Trip SnacksMy Profile

  22. Believe it or not, I’m the minority in my office. It’s definitely opened my eyes to the different dynamic. People say things that aren’t necessarily meant to hurt, but it happens nonetheless. (BTW, I’m not equating my situation with the whole civil rights movement…but it’s the closest I can actually come to relating)

    To be honest, I read your post earlier in the weekend, and it was a great reminder to discuss the reason for the holiday with my 4 year old. We snuggled up last night after stories and I did my best to explain the impact…event to the extent that my MIL and FIL may not have had a real opportunity without the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.’s involvement. I hope you got to enjoy the day with your kids and had some memorable moments!
    Leslie recently posted…{Listicles} 10 Things to Remember this WeekendMy Profile

    • I completely understand. I think we all need to be sensitive to ALL races in general, I mean every race gets offended! I love that you were such a great example for the kids!

  23. It is unfortunate Nellie…though not surprising that some folks just don’t get it. I probably wouldn’t have engaged her at that time either. But maybe in the future you can relate to her the importance and significance of the National Holiday…if the opportunity exists…
    Hope recently posted…Martin Luther King Jr….10 factsMy Profile

  24. Stopping by from your SITS Tribe – nice to “meet” you! So sorry about the conversation you had to overhear in your office. While it’s totally infuriating that some people can’t appreciate contributions that were so important to our society, I hope you didn’t let it get you down – because that would have meant allowing that person to rob you of some of your pride and joy. Hope it was a wonderful day for you!
    Megan recently posted…In Plain SightMy Profile

  25. Oh wow this is what you have to put up with I could not hold my tongue. MLK did great things not only for us but for all he promoted peace and equality. People can be ignorant and there are so many kids today who don’t know who he is. I had to tell my son about him because he thought MLK was a bad man I said why would you say that well this boy in school told me he went to jail because he was bad. We had to have school up in here……..
    Kita recently posted…Talk TuesdayMy Profile

  26. It really is hard being a Black woman in corporate America. There are a lot of things we see and hear that are VERY unpleasant…and what can we do about it? Sigh…I was happy to participate in the Day of Service on my “day off” like I do every year. Dr. Martin Luther King paved the way for so many of us. MLK compared to Black Friday? Unbelievable…
    Janelle recently posted…Weekly Recap: I’m a Healthy Living Blogger!My Profile

    • There isn’t much we can do, but what we can’t do is internalize it. I love the service aspect that has been added to MLK day. So appropriate.

  27. Not sure how I missed this post but seriously? I’ve had it up to HERE with people’s ignorance. Sometimes I feel like people are so open minded and we’ve come so far as a country – building and shaping new mindsets for ethnicity, race, sex and human rights and then I hear something like THIS!!! It makes me crazy – I can only imagine how you feel. I’m also so mad that it was a WOMAN who said it too and not the man. I don’t know why but I guess I just expect more from women. SIGH.
    Allie recently posted…The RundownMy Profile

    • Ha Allie, I tend to get emotional, write a post and hit publish. This was posted late late late on a friday night :) I know what you mean about the woman, she is nice enough, I certainly didn’t expect that from her.

  28. Heavy smirk. Humph. I remember being in a meeting at work and somebody asking, “What’s going on today?” and then saying, “Oh” like someone had just said, “It’s Monday.” I’ve seriously sat in the some work environments where I’ve wanted to say, “Hellllllooooo Black person over here!”
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…The Science Project Story – Part Two…My Profile

  29. I was feeling the same way… we have so much further to go. But don’t make me come to your job and put a foot in her ass for that ignorance. But MLK believed in no violence so I’ll behave.
    Amanda Nicole recently posted…Missing voices…..My Profile

  30. wow.
    Id love to say Im shocked—but no longer.
    we made it a DAY ON here.
    a DAY OF SERVICE.
    Carla recently posted…My FAT to FIT fabrication.My Profile

  31. I think you handled the situation well. Just walk away. I’ve worked places where racist jokes were told using the ‘n’ word in my presence. Total ignorance. And it’s sad when you have to say something to someone in order to get an apology or an explanation of sorts. Thanks for sharing, Nellie.
    Kimberly H. Smith recently posted…Here is Turn It Up Tuesday Link Up #22My Profile

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