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“Now, I say to you today my friend, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this Nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This quote, I’m sure, is familiar to all of you. If not, then I hope you will find some meaning in this piece. It was spoken graciously and passionately by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963, in Washington, DC. This week, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King. Several months ago, Sean and I received an award, the Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Service Award, which deeply humbled us. We have received numerous awards in the last few years, yet this one stood apart from the others. It was presented by The Rainbow Push Coalition. We were awed to be the recipients of a recognition that we knew was not given to us without great consideration. Sean and I joked, “Do you think they know we are white?” This Freedom Award represented all that Dr. King embodied to us. It allowed us to believe that maybe, just maybe, that we are making progress. It was not just another piece of hardware that we would line up on the shelf in the study. It seemed to represent a hopeful future.

During an interview not so long ago, Michael was asked what he thought about being adopted by a white family, and I’ll never forget his response. He looked right at the lady and said, “What does that matter?” Sean gave a beautiful acceptance speech when we received the award from the Coalition. In his closing remarks, with tears in his eyes, he said he was very young when Dr. King was taken from this Earth, but he’d like to believe that when he heard that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy got an award from an African American organization that he would have responded exactly like Michael and said, “Does it really matter the color of their skin?”

In our house the answer is absolutely not. However, that is not the case in many. You can not imagine the comments that have been made to us as a family over the years about having an African American son. You really can not. The two boys probably have heard things that they would’nt even repeat to me. And even after 50 million people have seen The Blind Side, the comments have not lessened. They’re just done with a little more fear of me! Michael hears them on the field; and I receive tweets, Facebook posts and letters. We actually have had people call us and say just the rudest things.

Our motives have been questioned. Our integrity and character put to the test. Does it bother us? Ninety-nine percent of the time-no. However, once in a blue moon, I just want to stamp the word STUPID on someone’s forehead. To a few people I want to say, “shame on you!” I guess there truly are some people who think, or thought, just because Michael was black that we never should have offered him help – and certainly not love and a home. Just keep driving and don’t turn around. Really?? Is that how we are making progress? We feel you should never write anyone off. It doesn’t matter the color of people’s skin or what country they were born in or anything else you want to add to this list. There is a lot of self-induced ignorance in this country. There are those who just don’t get the fact that every individual should be treated with dignity and respect.

Maya Angelou said it so beautifully, “We must be warriors in the struggle against ignorance.” Are you being a warrior? Are you fighting on the frontlines? Do you welcome people with open arms at your church if they’re different than you? Do you ask the new guy to lunch at the office if he’s not the same skin color as you? Look, bigotry doesn’t come in just one color. It comes in many colors, shapes, forms and fashions.

So, what’s the take away? It’s that all people have inherent value and potential, and that value doesn’t depend on their social status or family background or physical appearance. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR BEING PREJUDICE, NONE. Learn to love those you thought you couldn’t love-who are different than you!

Photo credit by: AARP

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @LeighAnneTuohy and play #TuohyTrivia on Tuesdays for a chance to win a $25 donation to the charity of your choice for answering the question correctly. Learn more about my family’s charity at The Making It Happen Foundation.

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