Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Truth in Black and White

Once upon a time, nothing terrified white people more than the idea of facing black people as equals. And nothing terrified black people more than white people.

And with good reason. Cowards, some in white robes, and some so indifferent that they didn’t even bother to hide their identities prowled the night, hanging “Strange Fruit” from the tree branches that hung over the streets of our city.

Times changed. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became the conscience of a nation. I’m filled with pride every time I see his name being treated with the reverence it deserves. He came to help black Americans, but he ended up giving white Americans their souls back. His “Dream” is yet unfulfilled, and forever gives us a distant star to reach for.

I look at this city, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that most of us have embraced that dream. With every day that passes, we whittle away, if not bludgeon outright, the ignorance of decades past. Every generation is more enlightened than the one before. I’m hoping that by the time my grandkids are old enough to have any concept of racism, they’ll have to Google “the n-word” to find out what it means. I cringe every time I hear it, but who knows--- The black kids that use it casually to refer to one another have the right idea. By owning the word, by making it theirs, they strip away the power of it.

But sometimes, I look at the city around me and wonder just how far we’ve come since April 4, 1968.

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