Monday, January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King's Birthday--Musings

"Freedom will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear...
Is a strong seed
in a great need.
I live here too;
I want freedom
Just as you."
--Langston Hughes, "Freedom"

This is Dr. King's birthday and I am trying hard to keep things in focus. Who would have ever thought after all we've been through we would still be fighting the old racist wars that have gone on in our country for years and years.

And yet here we are. The movie, "Selma" isn't just about once upon a time but still here and now. New barriers of all kind have been erected to make sure that makes it hard for many folks to vote. Historians in New York Magazine interview over 53 historians asking how they thought President Obama's presidency will be seen in the history books. You can read their responses in New York Magazine. Quite a few of these wise men who look at the long view have said so much opposition and downright hatred that this President has faced is due to the color of his skin. Many disagree. I really thought we had turned a corner with the election of our first black President. We seem to have moved backward instead of forward.

Yet we know that if Martin Luther King, Jr. had not traveled the hard road that he traveled--Mr. Obama would never have made it to the White house. I look round my Gym--half of those working out are people of color. Not all the doctors and school teachers in our schools are now lily-white. Why even our churches do not have Ushers stranding at all entrances making sure only the right people get in.
photo by Universal Pops (David) / flickr

I can remember when our football and basketball teams were all white. And the cheerleaders and the band and everyone in the stands except those selling pops and popcorn were white folks. I can remember my lily-white church and school and neighborhood. I never knew that on the other side of town in mostly run-down shanties the people that did our washing and kept our children and cleaned our houses  mostly lived on the outside of the American dream.

But Martin Luther King pricked out consciences and threw open the shutters and forced us to see what most of us white folks did not even know was there. And hard as it is today--we need to remember that we are not going back to those terribly racist days. They really are gone or they are going.

The world is having a hard time. We never had found those African girls kidnapped over a year ago. ISIS is terrifying. And to think that gunmen can march into a newspaper office or school and gun down children and adults is frightening. Policeman who turn their backs on the Mayor accomplish nothing. South Carolina legislators are trying to pass some legislation which would allow little children time to be taught how to use guns "safely" in school. Whatever happened to reading, writing and arithmetic?

On this birthday of the great King we are in a mess in a lot of ways. It reminds me of something I read years ago. Somebody asked this young man who worked with the homeless and the poor why did he do that. There were so many problems. There would be more tomorrow. How did he stand to keep doing what he did? I loved his answer: "T"s he only way I can stand it is to rejoice in the smallest of victories."

We need to remember that on this particular birthday. All over there are people of all ages that are participants in victories most of us know little or nothing about. One victory I remember this day was not so small. The day Martin Luther King came into the world. But the spin-offs have touched us all. Think back and remember the tiny victories that without which your life would have been forever different. And in our discouragement--let us not be overwhelmed by the darkness. We just might look around and find some ways that we, too can be part of these small but terribly important victories.

photo by yeimaya / flickr

--RogerLovette /

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