Skip to main content

Sometimes The Message Is Lost On White People

Recently, I was at an MLK Day luncheon in Ithaca and the lunch itself was to raise money, awareness and activism in honor of the man many believe to be one of America's greatest, if not the greatest, activists. The room was filled with people of various racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds, but the majority, a far greater majority than which represents the country, was white.

There were folks singers, singing Arlo Guthrie's response to Francis Scott Keys' Star-Spangled Banner, the folk classic, This Land is Our Land to start it off. Then there was a Native American couple, speaking in their tribe's native language, telling us about their land and immigration. Then a group of angry high school kids, screaming about not getting parts, because of the lack of diversity. This all ended with different groups, all of different backgrounds, introducing their workshop programs, all to follow the luncheon. Very few people listen, as they ate their free food. Privileged people, listening to those on the "stage," speak of poverty, oppression and civil rights. They clapped furiously at first, then a little softer, their muttering soon matching the volume of those with the microphone. Then we took our kids and left, off to another center, where a choice of activities was given, ours choosing play, although it did consist of an urban game.

It dawned on me, especially after living in Ithaca for a few years, that white people, especially white liberals, love being connected to activism and what they feel is action directed at important social issues, but how much they hear, from those who are actually affected by the topics they choose to champion, is very little. Sympathy is not empathy, and old adages aside, most of these people, despite dressing in homeless-chic, are walking in their own designer shoes and always have. Poverty may inflict itself upon them, but there was no life of sorrow on their faces. Then again, those who have endured it, persevere, so they hide it from their white counterparts. Many of the speakers, especially the younger ones, had anger in their voices, apparently missing the point and the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many quoted others, seemingly forgetting his words. At one point yesterday, I asked my boss, who was there, "Did they even mention MLK?" She paused, though, then looked up, "NO!"

As I've said before, one of the reason many whites have a hard time embracing Dr. King's philosophy, is that it's so similar to that of Jesus. In The Bible, Jesus is a very different man, than those who follow are taught about in church and if one were to believe what is taught in out culture, Jesus is even further removed from how he's depicted in The Bible. Dr. King, like Jesus, wanted those to do for others, before themselves. To do for the cause, understanding they may never see the fruits of their labor in life. To understand that their children and grandchildren, and those of their neighbors, would prosper from their work. It's a tough pill to swallow for many and as someone who has seen the struggle of whites and blacks, who do, not for them, but for their children and their children's children, it's done similarly, but with a completely different understanding of why and why it matters.

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

11 Rules of Life - Bill Gates?

I read this on Facebook this morning.  A friend had posted it and said that every child should have to receive this. I of course read it and started to think.  I immediately wondered who really wrote this, as I rarely see things like this attributed to the proper person.  I immediately found it was written by Conservative Charles J. Sykes when he wrote a book about how America is dumbing down our youth.  I read it twice and started to wonder how true it was.  Below is a link to the actual picture I saw.





So let's look at each of the rules and analyze them.

Rule 1: Life is not fair — get used to it! - Life is not fair in that we are not all afforded the same opportunities based on race, creed, color, socio-economic background, but in general, those who are afforded the same opportunities to succeed are very often rewarded for their individual efforts.  Sure there may be underlying circumstances, but hard work is proven to pay more often than not and those who strive for success, migh…

Out Of Options

Two winters ago, I was in a bad place. Physically, financially, but especially emotionally. Life, which has rarely been anything I could view as fair, had really begun to weigh me down. I was living in a motel room, paid for by my brother while awaiting a move to another state. A little late research revealed my soon-to-be new home was a bit of a nightmare. Think of Melrose Place with meth and hookers. The idea of flying halfway across the country with my cat, Swag, and less than $200 in my pocket was scary. Leaving everything I knew wasn't what scared me, it was knowing deep in my heart, I'd never return. 
It's always easy to put off keeping up with people when you're close, but as I've learned over the last four years, distance tests friendships, even those we view as true. One can't imagine the alienation of being broke, physically unable to walk, and having to rely on a motel staff's daily pleasantries to remind yourself you're alive. At times I que…

In Memoriam

For Shane

Yesterday, I sat in the library, thinking of you. As I pored over vegan recipes, tales of medieval monks, and descriptive biography of Yasujiro Ozu, I thought about you more. Who else could I call and discuss all three? Who else would be able to add insight to my last meal, movie, and chapter? I was tempted to walk, arrive work sweaty, but feeling accomplished, but a bump in the rode arose and I found myself driving. You'd have scoffed, claimed I took the easy way or accused me of always avoiding the circuitous route, in favor of ease. I'd agree, then buy you a beer.

Last night, I thought about us twenty-five years ago, maybe more. Rows of six dimes stacked on the bar. Cold Schaefer puckering our lips. Commenting on the old-timers, of which I am now one. You're not here to share those moments, that repartee or the serious moments we often shared. With every meal, movie and mountain life throws at me, I miss you more. There were years where we only spoke once. Thi…