so - i had a post planned for today -
then i read this article: Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did - my friend jeannine posted it on her facebook page this morning.
and then i got lost in the comments. someone could write a book just using the 800+ comments. what a treasure trove of knowledge and stories.
here is one of the comments, one of the stories:
I was on the other side of the fence that separated the races. As a white boy growing up in the deep south, I was ignorant of what it meant to be black. Opposite to the background of the author, my grandfather's grandfather had been a slave owner who drank himself to death after losing everything in the war between the states (Sherman burned down the plantation buildings, and the old man never got over it).
Of course, we lived in a segregated society in the South - it started segregated under slavery and had stayed that way. I was led to believe that black people didn't want us in their lives and that we dared not enter their section of town - that racism cut both ways. I don't think that I ever entered that part of town, even driving through, but I knew that the black community had their own schools and that some white people actually hated black people. The "N" word was used casually, but not usually with malice - it was just like saying "black", "African-American", or whatever other term might be used today (it was "colored" as in NAACP, or "Negro" then - I don't understand why we change terms every time the wrong people finally learn to use the correct term, but in the wrong tone). Contrary to stereotypes, most white people I knew did not hate black people, but they did see them as different, almost as a different species (an attitude somehow retained by Tea Partiers despite plenty of evidence to the contrary). In fact, I have heard many old southerners of that generation speak of "good" black people they have known, usually those who worked for them, as one would speak of favorite pets. Most of us white kids were taught to believe that black people were not as smart and that many were lazy (sports fans know of the old "Blacks can't be quarterbacks" theory). Kids in White liberal families were taught that they had a duty to help black people, as if they could not take care of themselves
What Dr King and the other civil rights leaders did (with much help from television) was to break the stereotypes we had learned about black people. In Dr King, we saw an educated, eloquent, reasonable man who wanted a better world for his children and the rest of us. In the demonstrators, we saw vast numbers who weren't satisfied with being segregated into their own community and who were willing to stand up to violence to change their situation. Television brought the speeches and the images of demonstrations into our living rooms, information that local newspapers would not have delivered - if not for TV, how many people would be aware of the "Dream" speech? It should be noted for younger readers that at that time, few black people appeared in films seen by white people other than those playing stereotyped characters, and black people were almost unseen on TV. After Dr. King's assassination, we witnessed the funeral on television, witnessing the grief of both black and white national heroes. These events entered the national consciousness and stirred black people into action and white people from their ignorant complacency. They inspired a generation and brought much-needed change to US society. These social changes were not just to the benefit of black people and not limited to issues of race. Dr' King's opposition to the Viet Nam war helped to change the national discourse on the war.
What did Martin Luther King accomplish? He didn't do it alone, but he inspired the most radical social change in the US since the Reconstruction. He and his allies shook a majority of white people from their ignorance, opening their eyes to the great hypocrisy of their "model society." Dr. King and the other leaders of the Civil rights Movement did as much to break the shackles of slavery as Abraham Lincoln and the post-civil-war constitutional amendments did. Dr King changed the dialogue on the civil rights movement from violence to passive resistance and created a template for social change used by the anti-war, "women's liberation", pro-choice, and gay rights movements. All people in the US (except the tea partiers) owe a huge debt to Dr. King.
I hope that nobody is offended by my use of the terms "black" and "white" here. I do it only for convenience because I'm sure that all readers are familiar with the convention. The terms refer more to cultures than to skin colors. I'm actually more of a beige and realize that actual skin color ranges from ivory to deep brown.
and then i got thinking about this book and this one and this one. i read the first most recently. after i read it, i wrote this: oh goodness. read that book. for all kinds of reasons. read it. for the story of henrietta and her family. for excellent writing. for questions about the ethics of cell study and scientific discovery (in readable, interesting, story-telling). for understanding of cells and cell growth and the study of all this. for real people who are affected in so many ways by the choices of others. for grace unfathomable. oh just read it! i read the second sometime in college - i got it from my grandma's collection of books when she passed away. it's another that i could say oh goodness. just read that book about. and the third i read toward the end of my college time. i often think of that one. wonder how many "white" people have "black" in their past and don't know it. wonder how intertwined so many, many people are without knowing it. wonder how much history is lost because of lies that were perpetuated because of fear.
we always will have a long way to go toward people living together with grace and in peace. but there is grace - grace for all of us.
and to all my friends who truly love people just for who they are as individuals and who treat others with grace, thank you. thank you for being kind, for loving, for extending grace. thank you.