Saturday, January 15, 2005


Monday is a holiday to remember the life, legacy, and dream of the late Reverand Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but also to seriously consider if the civil rights leader's dream has been truly realized here and elsewhere.

I grew up in South Mississippi during the height of the civil rights movement. I began elementary school the year that the Jones County School District was intergrated, and clearly remember the signs of racism that were part of the culture during that time. The "N-word" was as much a part of conversation as "Hows the weather?" Although I never personally saw a Ku Klux Klan rally until I was an adult, it scared the hell out of me when I did. In front of the Jones County Courthouse in Ellisville, there are to this day two concrete water fountains, although they have not worked in decades: One on the left in slightly smaller lettering says "COLORED"; the other, in large lettering, reads "WHITE". They remain mainly because the courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it continues to serve as a reminder of where we were at the time. Thankfully, Mississippi has changed much for the better in the years since the '60s.

But we should also remember that racism and resistance to "race mixing" was not confined to the Deep South. I remember the shocking pictures of rioting in, of all places, Boston --- yes, that bastion of traditional liberalism --- when it's public schools were desegregated during the 1970s. And the Los Angeles Times published a stongly written editorial after black fighter Jack Johnson's 1919 victory over a white opponent to gain the world heavyweight title (it had been moved from San Francisco to Nevada after a backlash over the thought of a black fighter going up against a white opponent) warning African-Americans against any thoughts that their place in the society had somehow improved because of the result.

We have certainly come a long way from the days of firebombings and seating people of colour at the back of the bus. But racism, unfortunately, still remains, although it is done in more covert ways. Today, if Dr. King were alive, he would certainly have spoken out against the ideas of racial profiling, selective enforcement of certain laws to control or restrict people of colour, and discrimination that remains in some areas of employment and promotion. I'm sure that the clergyman, while personally not supporting homosexuality, would also be strongly speaking out against any type of discrimination simply because a person was gay.

Friends, there is still a long way to go...pray for our country.


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