Friday, April 04, 2008

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forty years ago today was a sad, dark time in our country's history. On that day, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot as he stood alone on the balcony of a little motel in Tennessee. He was in town to try and re-convince the people of Memphis that his ideal of peaceful demonstration and protest was more effective than the riots and turmoil that had happened in that area in the previous weeks. But before the march could continue, he was cut down by a faceless bullet from a cowardly killer.

I cannot begin to understand what it's like to be black, or negro, or African-American, or colored, or any of the other terms used over the years. I cannot begin to feel the pain at watching better paying jobs and better opportunities pass me by because of skin pigment. And I cannot begin to feel the frustration that must come when young black people see and read the history of their ancestor's struggles and the triumph of the Civil Rights Movement, but then watch the self-destruction of the current drug/welfare/project/AIDS generation which has plagued their current culture.

I am the antithesis of the sexist, racist attacks that have made up so much of this country's past. I am a white male. The devil, as some would call it. I'll admit there have been times I've grown sick and tired of the reverse racism the media and other outlets have raised against my demographic. But if I choose to dwell on those thoughts, or propagate them further, I know it causes more damage than it could ever produce good. There are decades and centuries of pain that have come at the hands of white males, and just as much as I know that blaming the current generations for those atrocities can bring anger and defensive posturing, so does ignoring that they never happened. I choose to hope that we can live in a better time with more promise and a brighter future. All the while being willing to offer apologies for the sins of our fathers.

And maybe that makes me naive. In the same way I grew up ready to fight if someone said my sister's couldn't do and become whatever they wanted, I will now fight for my nephew's Isaiah and Isaac that they will have every opportunity and possibility they can imagine. And I will fight that fight without using vocabulary like, "despite" or "because" or whatever else gets thrown into conversations about people of darker pigmented skin. Those two boys are humans and as such can tackle the world however they want to. And so if I'm naive in hoping for those things, then I naively hope for that better world.

And so as I ponder the words and dreams of Dr. King, I celebrate that his dream of little white girls and little black girls has become a reality. I celebrate that his desire to see equality in jobs and pay is finally becoming a reality. And I celebrate that we live in a country that is learning to see beyond color but is still able to enjoy the culture it brings. Of course I know we aren't perfect and I'm not so naive to think we'll ever achieve complete harmony, but I'd rather gaze on the good we've achieved than mope about the problems still around. Dr. King's message was about hope, and I have hope our racial divides will one day be a memory. Until then, we still have work to do.


Blogger Kyle said...

amen, brother. We talked about race a good deal in pittsburgh, and I too have hope that someday racial and social differences will no longer be the factor that decides who gets to have a good life.

Thanks for writing this.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I love putting up great posts with great meaning... unfortunately they are few and far between so seeing this today that you took the time to compose, just about made my afternoon!

Racism is something I just don't get. Makes no sense to me. None. Of course we see skin color... but to me people are people... are people are people are people. Why wouldn't anyone treat anyone else the same no matter what their skin color is??!!?!!?!?! I just don't get it... and thinking about it too much, and reading about actual cases of racism, truly saddens me.

It's 2008 -- this stuff shouldn't still be happening in America.

Seriously boggles my mind.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Birdie said...

Thank you, Sam, for an amazing post. It reminded me so much of that time in history. I was in junior high school and remember quite clearly the deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. I remember the curfews due to the riots and hearing the sirens and watching my best friend hurrying home on her bike. I remember watching the movie "To Kill A Mockingbird" and wondering, like you, how anyone could be so unjust, so merciless, so hateful to someone simply because their skin color was different. I, like you, still don't understand. Thanks again, Carla

10:36 PM  
Blogger 3rd string's finest said...

I am glad you have such a keen insight on the matter. Most shrug it off and think of it as mere history while the evidence of biased society, and biased races are all around them.

I am glad you remember, or rather, that you will not forget.

5:02 PM  
Blogger HennHouse said...

And I'm just blessed that my kids have you for an uncle...

9:22 PM  

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