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For some, the month of February is just the second month of the year, a time to let your sweetie know how much you care, to worry if the groundhog saw his shadow, to get income taxes done and find out if you are getting a big, fat refund check.
For a certain group, it means a lot more. It means being able to celebrate a rich history and to pay homage to our forefathers and mothers for standing tall in the wake of prejudice and racism. Yes, it is the shortest month of the year, but the great people who fought the fight were not short on integrity, courage or intestinal fortitude.
I am talking about people such as Rosa Parks, who was too tired to give up her seat to another patron on the bus. Did she not pay her money like he did? When she did stand up, it caused a change 381 days later. The Supreme Court ruled the segregation law was unconstitutional and buses in her hometown of Montgomery, Ala., were integrated.
Martin Luther King Jr. was another who we, as Americans, can thank for giving a face to unfair racial practices. He spoke for all people, and one of his famous quotes helped to fuel the fires in John F. and Robert Kennedy to help the race situation during their time.
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right,” King once said.
I think back on my life and know my parents did their best to shield me from prejudice. But as we all know, we can’t be with our children 24/7 to protect them from harsh realities.
As a second-grader, I had no idea about color. That was not important in our home. We were taught to be honest, do well in school and to be a good friend. My best friend was not black and our birthdays are both in May. She was having a party and told me I could come. I was so excited. I went home and told my mom and I can still see that strange look on her face.
“We’ll see,” she told me, “but don’t be disappointed if it does not happen.”
True to her look, it did not happen and I was told her daddy said I could not come because of the color of my skin.
I was devastated and could not understand. That day changed me.
In my world, people are people. It is not about the color of their skin, but the content of their heart.
Shonna Sheckles lives in Bardstown and works in Elizabethtown. She can be reached with reader comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.