January 21st, 2008

So on this day that celebrates the struggles of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, I can’t help but to think about something my mother said to me last year after the demonstrations to get the Jena Six a fair trial caused more threats. When my mother was growing up, Black folks couldn’t sit in the regular seats in the old Robin’s Theater downtown and it was unwise to be in certain parts of town when the sun went down or you’d catch hell from the police. She was alive during the Civil Rights movement so it’s not some weird abstract concept to her. What my mother said was, “It feels like we’re going backwards.”

I’d been thinking the same thing but I figured it was skewed by my limited perspective. I’m 34, so I haven’t seen the same level of racism she saw. Right now it’s not as bad locally as it was when I was younger. I have stories from the 70’s and 80’s that could easily derail this whole post, but a lot of what I deal with now is stuff like going into a store with a white friend while explaining why employees are suddenly following us everywhere and not going to remembering which stores to avoid because they have prejudiced staffs. What’s messed up is that it’s always seemed like it was getting better up until around 2001 or so.

Back in 2006 I vaguely mentioned on my sites that I had a paid website assignment that I never explained or pointed to. What happened was that someone came to me to put together a website that detailed the workplace discrimination that they were fighting. I can’t go into detail and the website never made it onto the internet, but I saw photocopies of the threats and police reports filled with things that most of America claims to be a thing of the past. I saw things that, excuse my language here, pissed me off. No, not pissed off at white folks but by the fact that the other people in the company didn’t seem to give a crap until it could hurt their public image. Then I was mad that nobody was talking about stuff like this. You’d find more news reports about the squabbles between pairs of iced-out, shirtless rappers than about an innocent lives being threatened.

As irked as I was about that discrimination case, I can’t even imagine what it was like to live in the days of Jim Crow and Sundown towns. Then imagine being Martin Luther King and fighting for the equal right of all people while being the target of both the lawless and the law itself. How do you shoulder that kind of weight when you become one of the focal points of the movement? I heard that the person who performed the autopsy on him said that he was stressed out to the point of having the heart of a 60 year old man. He and the others around the world who fought (and fight now) for equal rights endured a lot of pain in the hopes that those who followed wouldn’t have to know that same strain. So instead of this being just another holiday, this is a day to think about them and thank them for what they’ve done for this world. Sounds cheesy, but I think they deserve far more than that.

One Response to “Day of the King”

  1. words to think on.