Updated: Jun 3, 2020
Today is January 21, 2019. I am sitting here in my dining room drinking my third cup of coffee while my wife takes a shower. It is Monday and usually she is at work, but today is a holiday here in the US. The holiday is for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I'll enjoy most of the day off before I go and teach my one fitness class of the day. My wife will have a visit from a friend, and they'll watch a show and chat. The time will tick on by as the day disappears. Tomorrow we will all be back to our normal routines. Right now all over the US there are marches, rallies, counter-rallies, memorials, church gatherings, demonstrations and celebrations for Dr. King. Tomorrow it will all be silent. That is what we do, isn't it? We praise, celebrate and rejoice, then we move on. Year after year after year after year. It is very interesting those cycles we get ourselves into. In any case, we are here, or, better yet, I am here writing on the day. I'm sure you have seen and read many opinions and memes and stories of people's opinion but maybe mine will be different. Only way to find out... get on with it.
Over the last few years I have written about Dr. King's lost dream. Why is it lost? I guess some of you have never seen any of my many messages about the Dream. Interestingly enough, as I searched for images of Dr. King for this blog, the image most predominantly displayed was this one here. I sat and looked at a regal Dr. King etched out on a "Stone of Hope" from the "Mountain of Despair" (not shown). It is a great statue. The artist did a wonderful job. What caught my attention though was that Dr. King was still "attached" to the piece of the mountain. He is still attached. Think about that for a second. Fighting for freedom and equality yet still attached to piece of the "Mountain of Despair." Seems silly to picture it that way, but it is what we see still. We, all people in some way or other, are still attached to the mountain. We aren't climbing "the mountain top" as Dr. King spoke of.We are, instead, attached to it. Perfectly chiseled in the front, dragging a chunk of despair behind us.
As I am writing my wife comes back down stairs and sits in her recliner. As I look at her and write this I have a revelation: as a young boy from South Central Los Angeles I would have had hell to pay in some way for being married to a white woman. Wait, a foreign white woman. (She is from New Zealand.) Why? Love is love, right? Dr. King marched, got beaten, hosed down and jailed among other things for equality. Why would my marriage to this woman be a problem back in the day (and even today in places)? Because we are still attached to the stone. Let me explain.
I was taught many things in school. Since the city was predominantly Black and Hispanic, we did get to learn about a few more stories of our people. I thought about the stories of Dr. King and the marches. I remember hearing of the great sacrifices and tough times of the Civil Rights movement. I had the image of the hotel he was shot at burned into my mind. The images of thousands upon thousands of people listening to him in Washington. Growing up, it was a sense of pride we were being taught. A sense of "if I want a better life I need to take a stand with my people, for my people and along side my people." I must have Black pride. And I did, in most cases. You see, I was all about the "community" when it suited the community. I took from those lessons, with the help of a few corrupt police sections (Search: Gang Unit of LAPD in the early 90's), that we couldn't trust white people. As I write that I look at my wife watching a show on Netflix. Can't trust white people? Hell, my life would be given for the woman I am looking at, yet, a younger me was taught not to trust them. "They don't care!" What an interesting little statement that is. Did Dr. King's vision include segregation? It couldn't have. Yet, here I was a young boy thinking that I cannot trust a certain group of people. Hmmmm. I should confess or clarify one point: neither my mother or my father ever taught me that lesson. That said, the streets teach you a lot and "help" you to interpret meaning. Don't trust white people!
Hindsight is painting this picture for me. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to join the Air Force and travel the world. I got to see that it wasn't "white" people or any other specific race I couldn't trust, but certain "people" who couldn't be trusted. Had I taken the teachings of Dr. King and many others the wrong way? Was it about how a man/woman treated me, respected me, listened and understood me rather than his/her color? The answer, of course, is that color, sexual orientation or even religious belief does not define a group of people. Actions do. Traveling taught me that, but I still had these lingering thoughts about life, race, struggle and standing up for what is right. We have come far and yet we are still attached to that piece of the mountain.
I have to fast forward a bit because I have grown and we are in 2019. I learned a lot over the years about the people I "can't trust." One being that there are several who I would put my life in their hands without hesitation. Don't trust them. Don't trust me. Look at my wife. My mixed kid, my brothers and sisters in arms, and the many people of all races, not just white, I have trusted in my life. So, why am I not just waxing poetic about the great steps we have made? Because something feels a lot like that pristine statue. It all looks great from the front but what about the rear? What is the pain that is carried still? Then it hit me: why my past me and present me are dancing in the middle of this blog.
What I learned back in the day was a tainted view of the world. I learned about Dr. King and the great people who fought for freedom and equality. As I looked for pictures for my Dr. King Day message last year, I saw photos of the marches. Photos like this one here:
In every march, every demonstration that you see there are...wait for it... white people. We never talked about that in my youth. I guess it made sense since the majority of the stories we learned were from the white perspective. We had to show our unity. But the "our" was many people. Every struggling people had those in power or benefited from the power that stood with them. Some quietly, like German families who hid Jewish people on the run from the Nazis. Yet, we hardly hear about that, which got me wondering back to my childhood thoughts (we need people divided) and, again, to today's thought: division at all cost will cost all.
Dr. King understood that unity was the key.
What I learned thinking of the times of old is that, if we fail to recognize the humanity across the board, we won't be open to the truth. We will be easily guided to the will of the masses. Growing up, I learned to believe that white people hated me, feared me and wanted me dead. Yes, some do. Yes, there is racism that is rampant across, not only this country, but the world. What we never talked about was racism from my community towards other races. Telling a tainted or lopsided story opens the doors to making it okay to be the thing the "oppressed" is complaining about. How can I expect the "whites" to listen and understand my story if I believe from the start they are all evil, murderous, hateful devils? Or vice versa? Dr. King understood that his message must be about unity because those in power need it. They need the people to be like the man on
the "Mountain of Despair" to be split and then split again and then again and then again until there is so much division we can't see that we are all the same. Instead, like those two sides of the monument, we stand equally opposed against each other. Those who would stand for the truth are unfinished still stuck within the stones that trap them. For me, it was the way history was taught. It was the way we spoke of others that fueled the ignorance and lack of understanding or compassion to those not like me. Ironically, it was the same for those like me too. Division is easy, which brings me to the second point of this blog.
Today, we are at a time where once again the powers have helped us divide ourselves. I rarely talk politics, but it is time to break my silence on the very topic that is adding stone to the dream of Dr. King instead of chiseling it further out. What am I talking about? Making America Great!
The reason I brought up my past is that the present reeks of the ignorance that I once held. America is more divided today than we were when 6 black kids walked into an all-white school for the first time. America is more unstable than it was when the North and the South went to war within our own country. We have open racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and religious zealotry. Everyone is a victim. What is worse is that we allowed fear to elect a leader who fueled that very notion. It reminds me of the young me being "told" about people, history and stories from one point of view. I was divided. Now, we are divided, and it is all based on fear. But how do we fix it? Like I did when I was a young man. I got to know others, but, more importantly, I got to know me.
The truth is simple: we can't make America "Great" by making us hate. Those white faces in the pictures Dr. King's marches understood. Those black men standing in front of police officers keeping angry mobs from attacking them understood. Those gun enthusiast who stood up and said "enough" with the gun violence understood. Those who realize that the President of the United States isn't talking about making us safe but is talking about making us hate UNDERSTAND. If we are to find ourselves in a place that Dr. King and many others wished and hoped for then we need to see ourselves as people and not "a people" because that
is what we are... human. Dr. King's dream boils down to being human and treating each person the same across the board. Being black, white, some other "color," straight, gay, "other," religious, atheist, tall, short, skinny, fat, and so on, and so on is nothing more than a description. It does not define character, honor, trustworthiness, or integrity. Those are defined by actions. If you want to be part of the dream, then let go of the nightmare of hate and division.
As I sit here thinking about all the people screaming about a wall, I don't see strength. I see fear and weakness. I see the same thing that lines of well-to-do white adults had in their faces as they yelled racist statements at 6 little kids just going to school. Fear. America is great because we never fell to the fear. We always stood up against it because we are better than that. Dr. King's dream will be actualized when we stand together, not to keep people out but to make people better. We stand for the weak. We don't pick on them.
Make America DREAM Again!
I'm going to leave with this. Last night I went out and watched the Blood Moon. I took pictures and saw all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram people across America watching it. All people from all types, all walks looking at the sky, watching something beyond ourselves. No colors, no orientation, no religion, no social/economic privilege, no age, no exclusion. Just natural, amazing beauty. For that moment, we were a dream of dreamers watching magnificence. I leave with my view of that magnificence... I have a Dream!