Thursday, September 2, 2010

black and white....who cares?

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. "MLK 8/28/63

I am a Martin Luther King nut. I am probably one of the few people in my generation who can tell you that he was killed on April 4, 1968. I know this fact because it happens to be the very day I was born.

When I was little and Mom would speak of it, she would claim that she was the only white woman in Yonkers who knew the date off the top of her head. Story goes that she had a "colored woman" as her room mate in the hospital and Mom had to watch the entire funeral. I remember very clearly asking one night, at the age of 5, how many colors mom's room mate was? I was sure she must look like a stained glass window. I couldn't understand why God would give that room mate of my mom's so many pretty colors and only give me the pale pink...

Race relations is not something I thought a great deal about growing up in the suburbs of Yonkers. I have stories about blacks and whites and maybe they need to be written down for another time.

But MLK was always important to me. In 7th grade, our entire class had to memorize a famous speech and present it to the class. We had a list to choose from and I chose "I have a dream". The winner of the class presentation got to go on to the next level. Long story short, this Irish girl pounded her fist about insufficient funds for the black brothers and sisters in our nation. And I won. It was the first time I ever knew I was good at something...no one was surprised that my skill including talking or an audience.

So why am I blogging on MLK this am? 'Cause it's my blog, duh.

And because it's heavy on my heart. Given the number of people who attended the Restoring Honor Rally in DC over the weekend, I would say it is heavy on the hearts of many Americans.

I think what pushed me to go to DC in that heat this past weekend was way more then just a desire to schlep my family to the steps of the Lincoln memorial to be in a crowd of way over 500,000. And for me, the deal was sealed a couple of weeks earlier in church of all places.

As we sat on a Wednesday night healing service, the guest pastor said something along the lines about how he hates it when he hears that a white person is willing to worship next to a black person but if that same black person were to move in down the block from them they would be up in arms...as ridiculous as the statement was, what drove the knife into my heart was the family in front of me. They happened to be black and the entire family started to nod their heads and shout "AMEN!"

I would have walked out right then and there had I not needed to be there for my dear friend and her family.

Seriously? REALLY?

Is that what I am thought of? Does the sister-in-Christ in front of me really think that way about me? Did they just do to me what they are accusing me of doing to them? I was just judged by the color of my skin and because I am so pasty and pale, I must be a bigot? Seriously?

Because I am white, I must hate my neighbor who happens to be from Nigeria? Because I am white, I must hate my Puerto Rican neighbor across the street? Should I hate the elderly neighbor next door to me too? Or how about the blended family behind us...you know divorced and remarried?

I've paced my living room rug raw on this issue more then once as my friend Sara and I have discussed it over and over again. When I first fell in love with my dear friend, I didn't know what her ethnicity was. I did know that her son Sonjay was best friends with my son Jack. I knew she loved the Lord and wanted to love him more...and I knew she had the best tan I had ever seen.

There are times she has hurt for me and others times she just does not understand this white girl on the other end of her phone. I've been told the fact that I just don't care about color or ethnicity is a rare trait, specific to me...and we "fight" on that point over and over and over. I do believe what happened in DC this past weekend was evidence of the fact that I am not alone in this.

There were those who were furious that a white man organized the rally. Those same individuals have made a life's work out of telling us that white people will always hate black people...and the narrative is starting to crumble.

For the life of me, I will maintain that MLK gave us the gift of not caring what color you are. Honestly, if you are a mean spirited, low-life individual, I won't want anything to do with you no matter what color you are. And I wouldn't have voted for Obama if he was orange with yellow poka-dots. For the record, those who did vote for him, based on the color of his skin are the believers who have some explaining to do...and in this great nation, that is still between them and their God.

Today we celebrate our daughter Caity's 14th birthday. In a couple of our hours she will have her pool party. By 1:00pm EST, in that pool, there will be the children of white men, black men, Jews, Protestants and Catholics. I will be busy serving them cake and ice cream. To the glory of God, may I serve them, knowing that one generation after MLK's speech we will be sitting down at that table of brotherhood on my deck.

Edited to note: When Caity was little, when describing someone who was black, she always said, "brown"...all of my kids did. Color was seen, but certainly not race. I do believe John and I have done a fine job in this area. I get to stand proud of that.

3 comments:

Melissa said...

Wow! This was good Mair! Good for you for sticking your neck out like that. My sons and I refer to African Americans as ''the people with the pretty skin'' (because that's what we believe-it's meant to be a compliment). O, and it's ALWAYS good to be friends with a Puerto Rican! Did I mention my maiden is ''Torres''. :-)
Keep pushing the envelope amiga!

Maryellen said...

Thanks Melissa! I have been so touched by the response to this. We call my neighbor accross the street "Mrs. Neighbor" because Maggie couldn't pronounce her name when she was little. She is a gem, kinda like you, only with more Bronx! LOL!

Anonymous said...

"Write" on, my sister!
Sara