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January 19, 2007

Where We Are --- On the Road to Where We Should Go

Posted by admin

On Monday, Martin Luther King Day, I logged onto Google and saw an illustration on their home page that had five children playing jump rope. Looking closely at the drawing I saw that they obviously were from different races and the spirit was one of comraderie. I smiled seeing this drawing as I have found it to be matching what I have been seeing evolve in this country --- children do not see race the way previous generations do.

I am not looking at this with some magic mirror and sharing that racial strife has ended, or there is not more to be done. But I am heartened by how much has happened even during my lifetime and I spent most of the day on Monday reflecting on that. I remember Dr. King's marches, Andy Goodman, the Greensboro sit-in, riots across the country and so many other notable moments that shaped the first steps to where we are now.

My parents' generation referred to people by their nationality. My generation still saw the world in black, white and every other color when we were growing up. My sons never do. They do not identify their friends by anything but name. They have seen people achieve success no matter what their race or color. And that is something to note.

A few years ago we watched the show American Dreams and each week I was interested to watch how my boys could not grasp any of the racial issues that were portrayed. They could not fathom people not getting their due. They kept asking me why things were happening in the show. It was beyond their comprehension as their friends of all races were melded into their world instead of sitting beyond or outside it. I actually spent a lot of time with them sharing the strides that were made and what still can be done as we watched news broadcasts.

Last summer my older son toured Martin Luther King's birthplace in Atlanta and talked endlessly to me about what he had learned there and he referred to it throughout the day last Monday. His tour guide was a civil rights activist and Greg asked him a number of questions so he could better understand the history of the Movement. Each of their questions and answers sparked memories in me --- some good; some bad.

The two readers who brought to my attention that I had failed to respond to the significance of this day in my newsletter last week each shared ideas for further reading and exploring. As I feel that our continued commitment to racial tolerance is not a day, a week or even a year long, I am sharing these suggestions with you.

Loretta from Massachussetts had these suggestions:
1. Taylor Branch - any and all of the 3 books on the African American led freedom movement: Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire, At Canaan's Edge
2. Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, Soft Skull Press, 2005
3. Nancy MacLean, Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace, Harvard University Press, 2006
4. - click I Can Fix It!

Lisa wrote, "You might have suggested that your readers take the time to read a history of the Civil Rights years, like Eyes on the Prize or to at least browse a selection of Reverend King's own writings and speeches. Or you might have asked them to actually set aside 18 minutes to listen to Reverend King's speech at the 1963 March on Washington, which can be found, with accompanying video here.

Like I said, while it's nice to set aside a day to commemorate an event like this, the more time that we spend talking in an ongoing away in everyday conversation, the more equality will become more than a dream. Listening to your children talk about all differences and steering these conversations down a path of dialogue is a good start.