For as long as I can remember, being born on January 15th meant two things:
1. It was the day the results of the Chartered Accountancy exam results were announced in India; and
2. It was the day Martin Luther King, Jr., was born.
The first had a more immediate impact on me. I had several friends who majored in Economics along with me, and for whom becoming a CA was invariably the next step in their business career.
So my birthday plans often had to take the announcement into account (because if they failed, they wouldn’t feel like celebrating. Great…)
The second was not felt on such an immediate level, though it was something that I was always reminded of: that I shared a birthday with a very great man, who was influenced by the teachings of Gandhi, one of India’s greatest men.
When you don’t grow up in a country, you don’t always relate as deeply to its history and the societal impact that its key figures have had on that country, even if you’ve studied, read and heard about them.
Since I’ve now lived in the U.S. for more than a decade, though, I’ve experienced first-hand what exactly it was that Dr. King did for America… and for me.
Had he not been at the forefront of the civil rights movement, would I have been who I am, where I am, doing what I’m doing today?
I doubt it.
I’m a dark-skinned woman married to a white man. For the most part, this doesn’t cause anyone to bat an eyelid, though we have traveled to parts of the country where it does.
I’m a dark-skinned woman who takes for granted my right to live the way I want and do the work I’m qualified to do, without anyone questioning my ability to do so, simply because of the color of my skin.
I’m a dark-skinned woman who no longer feels any less attractive because of the color of my skin. You’d be surprised at the premium that is still put on being “fair” in India (and many other countries around the world).
Though I have many African American friends
I will never presume to know what it feels like to live in their shoes in this country. Because I’m not one, and I’ve never had to deal with the injustices they dealt with, the hate they dealt with, or the pain they lived through.
Unless you’re African American, I don’t think anyone can.
Just as you will probably never know exactly how profound Gandhi’s influence was on India, how it felt when Indira Gandhi was assassinated, or what it meant to Indians when Sushmita Sen was crowned Miss Universe.
But I can relate to the injustices Dr. King fought against, the doors he opened, the emotions his life and legacy evoke.
I can relate to the inspiration he gave to millions of people around the world, and to his faith and conviction in the absolute right to freedom from the color of one’s skin.
The civil rights movement that he was such a key part of touches each and every one of us today. Whatever the color of our skin.
I still see injustice, racism, hate, violence… we all do. Sometimes I experience it too.
But I’m absolutely certain that had Dr. King not been born 82 years ago, had he not chosen the path he did, I would not be here, doing what I do, living the life I lead, today.
Because Dr. King didn’t just open doors for black people, he opened doors for people of all races, for women… and people like me.
Thank you, Dr. King.
Image: Chris Tank via Flickr, CC 2.0
[…] since I can remember, I’ve been chuffed that I share a birthday with Martin Luther King, Jr. So since today’s MLK Day here in the U.S., we thought it fitting to pull together a roundup […]
Thanks for sharing this, Shonali. I think a lot of people might not make the connection of Dr. King’s universal message without posts like this that bridge the obvious with the not-so-obvious. I’m glad you have felt the effects of his struggle and the message he gave everything to deliver. It is really a shame that your fellow Americans so ignorantly berated you, and shows their lack of understanding of people like Dr. King.
@JonHearty But they’re more than made up for by people like you. :) Seriously – not trying to be cheesy.
OMG this guy is a marketer or what:
In 2011, to begin with, let us take this opportunity to make our wish-list public: Let our Institute grow to newer heights and spread its wings to all corners of the world. Let our profession touch towering altitudes of success while helping our society and country, and fulfil all their expectations….
lol Its true Accountants have no sense of humor. well maybe all except for Mr. Chopra.
Love the thoughtful post Shonali. I finished college in North Carolina. One reason I didnt stay was because of the racial issues down there. But sadly it seems to exist in various ways everywhere. I don’t think we will all pull together as humans until real aliens invade or visit. But then of course we will hate them? Sigh. Its why I like nature. Animals might eat each other or get territorial but they normally are malicious or persecurial.
that damn edit button Jeremy! I meant animals are NOT normally malicious etc. Though sometimes cats can have mega attitudes.
@HowieSPM Howie that’s EXACTLY why we DON’T have an edit button: the typos are comedic gold! No but really, it’s something we’re still mulling over at the moment…the best I can say is “stay tuned!”
But in other news, I like nature, too. Animal Planet comes in a close 2nd to ESPN.
@JMattHicks maybe an edit button with a 5 minute timer? Spell Checker or the red underline would be nice. And right click for copy paste would also be nice! lol
@HowieSPM lol I’ll pass it to the dev team! And what browser do you use? Chrome will automatically red-underline any misspellings!
@HowieSPM I do think there is racism everywhere, it’s just highlighted in some places more than in others. My husband and I lived in the SF Bay Area when 9/11 happened, and for the first couple of weeks after it – possibly longer – I could absolutely sense the anger, suspicion and hate directed towards me.
I used to have a long black coat with a hood, that was very warm. I didn’t feel safe wearing it after 9/11. And the day after it happened, a couple of guys drove by our home and yelled at me – we were getting out of the car as we commuted back from work – to “go back to where I came from.” It was very, very hurtful.
But what do you do? You try to get over it, not be affected by it to the point where it starts to color your own perceptions, and hopefully make sure no one else is treated like that, at least in front of you, right?
As to animals: I have news for you, Mr. Howie. They can indeed be malicious, though usually it doesn’t go as far as human malice!
@JMattHicks @HowieSPM LOL, I stay away from my comments for a few days, and you guys have turned it into a soccer field. :p
Happy (belated) Birthday, Shonali. He was definitely influential to many more people than just African Americans and in many more places than just the United States of America. Great blog post!
@JMattHicks Belated thanks to YOU, pal!
How crazy that you share his birthday and I was born the day he died. Love this heartfelt post, Shonali. A toast to Dr. King and all he stood for!
@rockstarjen I know, isn’t that weird (about you & me, I mean)? Thank you, belatedly, Jen!