Early morning, April 4; Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
TO THE POINT
This is the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. John McCain spoke in front of the balcony where King was shot and killed. I walked to the Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial today. Past the Holocaust Museum. I think there should be memorials to eras and times of peace and technological or cultural advancement. In addition to the plethora of war memorials. But then again … maybe that’s what all of those museums are that line the National Mall and proliferate in DC. They’re monuments to knowledge, technology, history, art, culture. Hm. I see.
So why, nearly 20 years ago, did John McCain vote against the Federal and state holidays for Martin Luther King Jr.? At one point he said that they didn’t like outsiders coming in to their state telling them what to do or how to do it. And since no individual has a Federal holiday … I don’t really understand that because I thought there was a George Washington Day and a Lincoln Day but they’ve been combined into President’s Day. Oh good grief. I just read that Lincoln Day (he was the founding President of the GOP) is often renamed to or celebrated as Reagan Day in some circles. But don’t get me started on that.
I say “ignorant” because to assume that what he and the Civil Rights Movement accomplished was only for black people is just … whoa. And I mean aside from the fact that he worked for economic justice and not just racial justice. He was saying, “Poor white people it’s time to stand up for yourselves and join hands with us. We’ve got problems in common. We’re being trampled on and it’s time to stand up with each other and for each other.”
That’s my interpretation anyway. But aside from that. To say that the end of Jim Crow laws and integrated public facilities was “for black people” reveals a belief that the gains of black people, the quest for dignity and equality in society was at the expense of white people. It reveals a lack of identification with Dr. King’s message, goals, and works.
And that just weirds me out.
I mean, I’m supposed to identify with the founding fathers, right? Jefferson, Washington and the lot. Even Columbus and the explorer/invader/slavers. I, as a black man, am still supposed to acknowledge Columbus Day, for example. Put away ancestral anger and pride and see the brilliance of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America and courage to literally — not metaphorically but literally — sail into the unknown.
And I do. We do. It’s dichotomous. It’s ironic. But we do it.
And yet when a black man, born and raised in an era of brutal segregation, stands up and speaks for and fights for and dies for not just the concept but the implementation of justice for all, you get some jackasses saying, “He’s not worthy. He was a philandering trouble maker.”
And then you get politicians who either are racist or pandering to racists. That’s just not cool. Okay. Wait. I’m sorry. That was the anger talking. Not necessarily racist, but maybe in the world in which the politicians live, which is just as segregated as ever (and the holiday was proposed in the mid 1980’s) … why would a holiday for Dr. King be meaningful or important? When they grew up it was normal to have a water fountain just for your kind. And the dirty Negros had their fountains, bathrooms and entrances. When they grew up they’d hang out at or take their dates to the local diner or soda/malt shop that didn’t serve my kind. To white folk who knew only that, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
You have to be carefully taught.*
You know, I’m beginning to believe that McCain will say anything to become President. He said the other day that the economy is strong. The war in Iraq is going well. Straight talk, my eye.
*YOU’VE GOT TO BE CAREFULLY TAUGHT
Here’s one of my favorite songs. From the musical “South Pacific” in 1949 (I was in the pit band for my high school’s production of the musical). Please read this wikipedia entry about the song: Wikipedia entry
You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear You’ve got to be taught from year to year It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear You’ve got to be carefully taught You’ve got to be taught to be afraid Of people whose eyes are oddly made And people whose skin is a different shade You’ve got to be carefully taught You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late Before you are six or seven or eight To hate all the people your relatives hate You’ve got to be carefully taught You’ve got to be carefully taught