Monday, January 17, 2011

(almost) Fifty years later

The kids are home for Martin Luther King, Jr., day, and for the first time since high school, I decided to review the text of his "I Have a Dream" speech.

In 2013, 50 years will have passed since 250,000 Americans went to Washington to protest the injustices to black folks under the Jim Crow laws. And having just read Katherine Stockett's The Help (link to my review), I was curious as to how many of his dreams had come true.

Starting with the easiest, the "Whites Only" designations have pretty much disappeared. So that's one. (Sure, there are still exclusive clubs in certain pockets of society, but I think that has as much to do with elitism as racism.)

With the election of President Barak Obama, I'd like to think this dream was fulfilled: "We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote."

Although, unfortunately the election exposed an angry fist of racism still lurking in our country.

As a resident of south Alabama with two little white girls in public schools, I can attest that this dream has come true: "I have a dream that one day . . . right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

And I'd like to believe we've all achieved this dream: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Lord knows, I'd like to be judged that way.

It seems we've made much progress. Yet, while I type this, I can't help but wonder if we will ever completely rise above the past, and forget the anger and fear that cause us to mistrust each other. 

I'd like to say yes. But again, as a resident of south Alabama who periodically drives past the giant Confederate flag on I-10 west of Mobile or the one on I-65 north of Montgomery, I know there's still work to be done.

And if you judged me based on how many close black friends I have, you'd say I still had work to do.

But I do try to determine people's characters based on their actions and the words they say. It's how I raise my children, and I hope it's how everyone strives to make their decisions.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; 'and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.'

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together..."

Powerful words. It's good to pause and reflect at least one day a year. Until Thursday~ <3

34 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

I have a dream to someday write something as powerful and moving as that speech.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

It's amazing you guys still have that problem in the states. You'd think by now racism wouldn't be a problem. I'm beginning to think things will never change. Sad but true.

Pk Hrezo said...

I think the problems are hidden in every country... they only shift from race to race, gender to gender. Fifty years ago it was about blacks in the US, now it's about gays. There will always be hatred and violence in the background, but Americans have made huge strides. I can say in both my children's classes they are neither majority nor minority as white children. It's a great feeling. And I truly believe MLK's dream has come true ...we just have to keep working at it.

Let freedom ring! Happy MLK day!

Tracy said...

Moving post...thank you!
I think that discrimination begins with a lack of understanding or willingness to walk in any man's shoes. And it happens everywhere and with any ONE who is declared 'different' by society's measure...those who are disabled, those who are gay, those who walk to the beat of a different drum...it's not ONLY what we can place a label on...
...isn't the world truly a 'work in progress?'

Old Kitty said...

Oh wow! Happy Martin Luther King Jr Day!! I think his words and presence are more needed now than ever. His was a voice of hope and reason and the best of what humanity may offer if they really tried!!! Not a shred of malice,hate, vitriol and negativity!

Thank you for a fab post! Take care
x

DEZMOND said...

yep, we should always determine people's characters based on their actions and the words they say!

Laura Pauling said...

We've come far, but yes, I think we still have a ways to go. Maybe another 100 years?

Carole Anne Carr said...

The world is sadly in need of another like him.

aspiring_x said...

beautiful post!
i try to raise my children to love everyone too. :)

salarsenッ said...

We will always have some issues, apparently. There's always hope. Hope in those who'll always believe in bigger and better. Like us. Thanks for the wonderful post, hon.

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm glad you're giving tribute to MLK. He worked hard to attain what many want. I know down here in Mexico, racism still exist among the Mexicans.

CD

Carolyn Abiad said...

Lovely post! Here in NC, some schools were open today to make up for some snow days. It's causing a big fuss, and rightly so. Why couldn't they just add a day to the end of the year?

Matthew Rush said...

You can't possibly expect us to believe you wrote this post yourself you iggnunt cracka!

Seriously though? This was beautifully said. It still kind of fucks me up because my pop grew up in Meridian, and he was attending Ole Miss when the national guard had to go ensure the safety of the first African American student, and he was so excited to see Obama get elected.

He did get an opportunity to vote for him in the primary in Washington State, but he passed away in October 2008, just before Obama was elected.

Great post Leigh, thanks!

Patti said...

Where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I love that line, and although we don't celebrate MLK day in Canada, he's definitely an influence up here as well.

Lydia K said...

Thank for a wonderful tribute on MLK day.

Every time I hear his speech my eyes well up. What an incredible man he was.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, nice to do a little evaluation. I would agree... much progress and a long way to go. I study disparities professionally, and minorities have a large gap in their health compared to whites, largely because of various forms of institutional racism and poverty--people don't actively KNOW they are racist--they truly believe they are not, but they make different attributions that cause different responses.

I am glad though, to live in a time and place where my kids are growing up differently--both have black best friends at the moment (son always will, probably--daughter changes friends now and again) so hopefully they will grow up without some false layer between what is said or done and what is perceived.

Jennie Bailey said...

I feel blessed to have grown up in Southern California. I was raised in a tight, racially diverse community by parents who didn't look at color of skin or sexual orientation. I was very, very lucky. I remember my first trip to a southern state (I don't want to list it because I don't want to offend anyone) and how earth shattering that was to me - the communities still so divided. I don't know that we will ever rid this world of racism entirely, but I think MLK would be fairly pleased with the way things are now. This was a great idea for a blog post today!!

Stephen Tremp said...

Its hard to believe the confederate flag is still flown. It was flown on certain government buildings up to a few years ago. Not sure if the practice has been completely stopped though.

LTM said...

@P--I agree, and I think that also in terms of gender, women still have some progress to make. Happy MLKJ day to you, too! :D <3

@Tracy--thanks, and you're welcome! You're so right in that education and exposure are keys to understanding and acceptance. :o) <3

@Laura--it's true. But hopefully not that long! Maybe just another 20... :D Thanks!

LTM said...

@Stephen--the one on I-10 was put up after we moved here in 2004, and it was a very disappointing day to me. Proponents try to defend it as a "pride in the South" issue. As a life-long southerner, I don't buy that.

It's very disappointing. :o\

Colene Murphy said...

So true! What a great post for today. (Those flags always irked me...) We do have some improvements to make, for sure, and I was really embarrassed for the entire human race with Obama and all that nonsense started up. But...it's better!

RosieC said...

Thanks for posting such a nice piece. I constantly think we have so far to go, and I don't feel like the world has come very far since the early 60s, especially since I also just read The Help over winter break. While there's ample work to be done, it's nice to have a reminder that some things have changed, and the power to change the rest remains in our hands.

I'm not surprised by the flags. I've always been told it's an southern pride issue, too, but that doesn't work from the people in central Ohio and Indiana who stick them on their truck bumpers.

While growing up, we lived in Montgomery for a year. The girls who lived on either side of our house couldn't play with each other because of the race issue, and that was much more recent than some of the changes you highlighted. Nonetheless, I can hope it was a rare case.

erica and christy said...

A moving post. Thanks for the reminder and reflection. There will always be work to be done when trying to make life better for everyone, and I hope we never stop trying. Christy

N. R. Williams said...

I think a lot has changed. Unfortunately, there will always be villains both in real life and in fiction. Those who endeavor to destroy the hope of others. As writer's, we have a unique way to stand against such people. Here's to the powerful, written word.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Shannon said...

Excellent post, Leigh.

While I agree we have made A LOT of progress in the past fifty years, there is still much to be done. I have faith that we're headed in the right direction. =)

Jen Daiker said...

It's sad that there are still people who can't let the past go, who can't be nice, you can't just all get along. I think it will always be this way, there will always be people who can't seem to understand the true meaning of kindness and the easiest way to hurt someone is to go for the worst.

I'm just glad I'm not one of them.

Tara said...

What a wonderfully written post. Until everyone can let go of the past, I'm afraid things won't change.

Talli Roland said...

It's an amazing speech, isn't it?

Can I ask what you thought of The Help? I really want to read it!

Lola Sharp said...

I love this post SO MUCH. I adore the comments left here, too.
That speech was powerful and moving and it breaks my heart that we still have work to do.
There are still religious wars, still gay bashing, bullying, school shootings (TODAY)...oh the ignorance makes me sad sometimes.

If something is different, some people take offense. I just don't understand. Why does matter what color someone's skin is, or what gender someone falls in love with, or what god they do or do not believe in?

Love, compassion, tolerance should be taught in every school, in every home.

Thanks for this post, Leigh.
Love,
Lola

Julie Musil said...

Powerful words indeed. Thanks for the reminders. We've come a long way, but there's always room for improvement.

Tracy said...

I'm late to the party here.

While I think there are certain areas where we still have a long way to go, I think a lot of it are changes that will continue forward with each new generation. There's already a marked difference in perception between my generation and my grandparents' generation.

Bottom line, I think tolerance and acceptance have to be grown in order to last.

LTM said...

@Tracy--great point! And I think you're right as time passes, things continue to change~ :o) <3

Lisa said...

This is a beautiful post. I'm just about to read The Help for my book club, too.

I really hope we're moving in a better direction, but sometimes I get discouraged, too. I guess all we can do is try to be the best people we can be and set an example for our children. Slowly but surely...

Aguilar Elliot said...

let's hope that we continue on with the dream.