Monday, January 19, 2015

What Can One White Woman Do?

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday.

Would he be proud of all that we have done?

Would he applaud that we elected an African American president, twice? Would he be proud of us that there are laws against segregation and hate crimes and that lynching is portrayed as a tragedy in the movies? Would he be moved to know that some epitaphs aren't spoken by proper white people but are bandied around by black people as if they're a dare. There is freedom in that.

Or would he be sad that ministers still have to protest over a boy and a police officer in Ferguson? Would he start the dream speech all over again because of the boy who couldn't breathe, couldn't breathe, couldn't breathe? Would he cry silent tears over the segregation that isn't segregation, the neighborhoods that are uniform and expensive and almost completely white, or the neighborhoods in which whites feel ill-at-ease when they run out of gas and must stop there anyway? Would he hate the disparity in the schools? Would he hate the state of the prisons?

Have we made all that much progress? I still hear vitriol against races. It's stage-whispered, but it's there. I can't have a conversation about race with a black man I met at the dog park because I'm afraid to hurt his feelings and he's too polite to bring it up when it's all the big news. My son's school, an affluent school, is not diverse. I see the boy from Mexico overcompensating, playing a role I wish he wouldn't play.

If we can't talk about it, can we work on this? Is there a way to bring sides together? I've seen good police officers and dangerous ones. I've spoken to good men of other races and I've been afraid.

How can we change? What the hell can I do?

This work, Martin Luther King Jr's work, is not done. Pablum given over to celebrating Black History Month won't fix it. Protests help, but the furor seems to have died down. Why is it over? Isn't it still a problem? Has Ferguson elected an African American mayor or put more diversity into its police force? Has the New York City police force ended their illegal searches of men who 'look suspicious' and are usually just black? Is driving while black okay now? Has my school district paved the way for more diversity? Are there low-income houses going in next to the million-dollar-five-acre-minimum homes? Would that fix anything? Is more money being diverted to poorer schools, predominately black schools?

More work to do, folks. More work on both sides. One side needs to keep shouting. The other side needs to shut the hell up for a change. George Orwell once said that some people are more equal than others. He's still right, even after all these years.

Thank you for listening, jules

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