18 January 2010

Celebrating the Dream - MLK Day 2010

We gathered at the downtown square and marched, singing and chanting, to the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception four or five blocks down Broadway and packed our selves in with people lining the aisles, balcony, apse and nave. A standing room only mixture of white, black, brown, young, old, male, female, rich, and poor to celebrate the dream of the single most important person of the 20th Century.

Martin Luther King's dream of white and black, son of slave and son of slave owner, sitting at the table of brotherhood was more than a theme today, it was reality!

Our featured guest speakers were The Honorable Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson of the Supreme Court of Texas and the Reverend Dr. Stuart Baskin, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Tyler, Texas. It was Dr. Baskin's great-great grandfather who had owned (my god, what a dreadful, painful, sickening notion--that one man might legally own another), and after the civil war, set free the great-great grandfather of Chief Justice Jefferson. Two men, inextricably linked by time and history, one white, one African-American, literally and physically as well as symbolically, embracing and sharing love, brotherhood and reconciliation on this day set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior.

Afterward some of spoke together quietly of the progress which has come and the hard, troubled road to the strenuous work which still awaits our doing. For you see, Racism, bigotry, ignorance and hatred still lives. Oh no, the violent opposition has slithered back into primal darkness from whence it came. It has been replaced by something uglier and more difficult to deal with; it is there in the snickering, wink-wink complaints about "political correctness", it is there in the "knowing shared glance" between whites when a person of color enters their presence, it is there in the avoidance of being alone with an African-American man by certain "ladies of gentility". It is there!

It was certainly there when I moved to East Texas from Missouri and my co-workers, when asking about my house buying plans, urged me not to look on the "North" side, you'll be a lot happier of the "South" side and always accompanied these "warnings" with an unspoken but clearly obvious "wink-wink", "nudge-nudge".

So yeah, the fear, hatred, anger, angst, and ignorance of racism is alive and well while not being as open and violent as in the past---we have at least made it that far. But, secret, hidden and tacitly accepted or tolerated racism is as, if not more, deadly than it was when Dr. King led us to the top of the mountain and shared with us his dream.

No comments: