Monday, January 15, 2007

I Have a Dream

I've been struggling with this post and just realized it's to do with always feeling that, as a white person, I have nothing meaningful to say about discrimination. But then I remember that I am a woman and as such have had my share of experiences wherein who I was counted against me. I realize that what's holding me back is "liberal white guilt", something I don't actually indulge in. Because it is an indulgence. "Look how progressive and concerned I am; I hate myself for not having suffered". Well, bollocks.

So here's what I want to say.

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, and with good reason. He had a dream and he dared to share that dream with America and his vision took us to a new and better place. We're all well aware that the dream has not been perfectly fulfilled. The winds of Katrina showed us that, if nothing else. We can all point to any number of places in American life where racism still holds sway. And that stinks. But to act as if we've made no progress is a little silly, too. In a little more than 40 years we've gone from a situation where blacks weren't allowed to vote to a black man being seriously considered a candidate for the presidency. We've travelled from a world of separate drinking fountains and "whites only" dining counters to a place where people of color are leading lights in every area of of our society.

It's taken us too long and we still have a long way to go to get to the mountaintop that Dr. King dreamt of but we're getting there. And that is something. It is a marvelous something. And we just need to keep plugging our way there, lit by the fierce light of justice. Whenever we see where we are falling short we need to speak out against it and act to change it. Racism is like a morning glory weed. It needs to be vigourously rooted out anytime we see a little shoot of it coming up. We all have to be diligent. But the fact that it still exists shouldn't blind us to the fact that the world our children are living in is still very different from the one we knew.

I look at my child (my very blond, very European little child) and I have hope. I think Dr. King would look at her and say, "That's what I'm talking about". She and many of her generation are our best shot at moving to that next level, the one Dr. King was talking about when he said that he dreamed of the day when his children would be judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character".

It's not that The Spouse and I have done the world's most agressive job of teaching her about civil rights and injustice and all those other big concepts that "liberals" are so het up about. Mostly, what we've tried to do is just show her how to live in a way that honors the dignity of all people. Because if you believe that everyone has dignity and worth, then you can't discriminate.

It probably helps that we live in a big city. "Multi-culturalism" isn't a concept so much as a familiar way of life for The Child. She lives in the most racial, economically and religously diverse neighborhood in Seattle. Her parish church is full of color. She has been the minority in both of the schools she's attended thus far. She has friends who are black and Asian and white. She has, from the beginning, been side by side with lots of children of lots of backgrounds and that familiarity makes "diversity" almost a no-brainer. She's been on the recieving end of prejudice. She's been mocked for the color of her skin. And she did not like it. All this goes to inform a conciousness of acceptance, tolerance and an innate sense of justice that pushes her closer to the fulfillment of The Dream.

One day she came to me and said, "I think it's stupid to call people 'black'".

"Why is that?" I asked, being very restrained and not wanting to jump down her throat too soon.

"Well, it's not very accurate is it? Because my friends have lots of different colors. Jackie looks like a chocolate kiss but Jaimie looks like a latte. Myra looks like cocoa with whipped cream in it. And I'm not white...I'm pinky white". She was 6.

Maybe that's just an artist's eye, but I think it goes to something more. The color of a friend's skin is remarkable in the way the color of her hair or eyes are; it is a part of how she looks, but it isn't to do with who she is. And it's that sort of thinking that's going to get us that much closer to the mountaintop.

If you have a little time today, and if you haven't already encountered this clip 412 other places, watch Dr. King state his vision for the future and then embrace the continuing call to bring it to fruition.



Blogger greeny opined...

Well put, Lorraine.
I am not from a diverse community and my children are not experiencing diversity unfortunately. I would like them to and encourage them to know that skin color should have little to do with wanting to get to know someone.
Thanks for giving us a thoughtful post! And you stay warm too. Thanks for the visit.

January 15, 2007 12:44 PM  
Blogger Evangeline opined...

Marvelous post Lorraine.

January 15, 2007 1:20 PM  
Blogger charlie opined...

racism is a blot on humanity and is just plain stupid. and it is rampant not just in the USA. it is rampant most places in the world. humans are nuts.

January 15, 2007 1:22 PM  
Blogger Kendall opined...

The Child is a brilliant young lady. I look forward to the day that her generation rules the world!

January 15, 2007 1:52 PM  
Blogger jp opined...


January 15, 2007 2:31 PM  
Blogger Renee opined...

Thanks for this.

Although our neighborhod/parish is one of the most culturally and economically diverse in this city, that's not saying much.

There was one "black" girl in my high school class of about 300.

I felt sorry for her, and today I just feel sorry for myself for having felt that. I'm sure she's off conquering her part of the world, wherever that is now.

January 15, 2007 3:19 PM  
Blogger Grish opined...

Good post there.

January 15, 2007 4:01 PM  
Blogger Red7Eric opined...

Brava -- we've got a long, long way to go, but cannot lose sight of the progress that has been made. We need to feel good about what we've accomplished if we're going to finish the journey ...

January 15, 2007 4:39 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Thanks all. I'd have written more individual comments but the future leader of the free world insisted on going to The Gap.

January 15, 2007 5:45 PM  
Blogger Iwanski opined...

Good job Lorraine.

My hat is off to you.

January 15, 2007 6:31 PM  
Blogger Sling opined...

I absolutely love it when you post this sort of thing...You make common sense sound,well,..sensible.
Very nicely done lorraine.

January 15, 2007 6:40 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Well, put your hat back on, Iwanski. It's cold outside.

Gee, me? Sensible? That's almost funny.

January 15, 2007 6:49 PM  
Blogger CSL opined...

Nice. We live in an absurdly monochromatic area (that's Appalachia for you), but I still maintain hope that we are working our way in the right direction. My first visit here, by the way.

January 16, 2007 6:04 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

CSL, "Absurdly monochromatic"...I like that line. In the end, so long as we're all doing our bit, whereever we were, it moves us all forward.

Thanks for stopping by!

January 16, 2007 6:15 AM  

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