KING FOR A DAY
MLK DAY: WHAT ARE WHITE PEOPLE
SUPPOSED TO DO TODAY?
LYNCHING SEEMS INAPPROPRIATE, ANACHRONISTIC, UNCOOL
Likewise Blowing Up Churches, Shooting Civil Rights Leaders, Turning Dogs Loose On Black People
That sort of thing has fallen out of fashion among white people, for the most part, even in the Deep South. To celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King today, I guess a few of us white folks could try a Freedom Ride. You know, hop a bus and go on down South to face down the Crackerocracy, at the risk of our lives. March down the streets of Montgomery or Selma or Birmingham, under police guns. Get beat up and thrown into jail cells and pray we'd get out alive. (But those days are over now, right?) Or, we could do what most of us did in the Sixties: Nothing.
Everybody in France after WWII used to like to say that they had fought the Nazi's. But, of course, only a few actually did so after they invaded, and before we did. Likewise, most Germans said they hadn't supported Hitler. But somebody voted him in. And, even though only a tiny minority was allowed into the Communist Party, most Russians supported the system, if only passively, or out of fear. How else could such systems survive?
Nobody actually voted for Nixon, either, to hear tell, though he won by an historic landslide in his 1972 Presidential re-election bid, and right in the middle of Watergate. Nobody supported the war in Vietnam, but we stayed there for nine years, somehow, until they actually kicked us out. And nobody in the South supported the Klan. But many white elected and appointed officials were Klan members, and quite open about their sympathies, if not their actual affiliations. Somebody elected them.
And who actually voted for Bush, or his unlawful, immoral, self-destructive, historic first-strike wars on civilian populations for the benefit of Big Oil? Nobody, right? Well, for once, that may be true. But who really tried to stop it? No, really?
So, I guess most of us were on the side of the angels most of the time, even if we didn't know which side that was, at the time. I guess we figured it out later. I guess that counts, for something. Not sure what. Being there and actually doing the right thing at the time surely does count for something. It counts for all the changes that came as a result. It counts for the world we live in today. It counts for a beginning of an end to things like racism and some of it's most evil manifestations. It counts.
It counted back then, too. In Little Rock and Baton Rouge. In Atlanta and Jackson. In Greensboro and Memphis. It counted enough to get you beaten and locked up, attacked by dogs and gassed by policemen, spat upon by white ladies and cursed at by white children, run off the road and shot in a ditch by white men, buried in an umarked grave by white "person or persons unknown". It counted, all right.
It counted when the most articulate man of his generation spoke out, knowing he was marking himself for death by doing so. It counted when a people listened who had no reason to believe that the America would ever do right by them, and believed what they heard Dr. King say. It counted when they rose up and peaceably brought about a change they had been awaiting for hundreds of years. It counted when America began to become the country it should have been all along.
It counted when hired gunmen, cowards and stooges, cut the man down who had dedicated his life to holding America to its' promises. It counted when a nation asleep finally woke up to the terrible reality of white racism and violence, black oppression and resistance, and let the changes come. It counted when millions of people with little hope in the world took inspiration from the brutal murder, and the transcendent life of one man among them. It still counts.
It'll count more if you remember what it was all about. And realize how much it means today, Martin Luther King Day. So, what you do today is, you remember. That's what national holidays are for, or used to be: Not sales or parades or picnics: Solemn remembrance. Official recognition and personal gratitude for the sacrifices that other men and women have made to make us all free. Don't forget, now: It counts.
It'll count even more if you actually get up and do something about the injustices in the world today. Because some day, history will call you to account.
Labels: America' shame, America's promise, civil disobedience, Civil Rights, discrimination, Freedom Riders, injustice, Klu KLux Klan, Martin Luther King Day, non-violent protest, passive resistance, racism
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