MLK Day, 2012


I was told I was stupid so many times in grammar school, I cannot even begin to estimate the number. Polish jokes were big where I grew up, in a neighborhood of first-generation Italians. Apparently, everyone thought they were true.

That and the fact that I was female.

I worked harder, developing a sharp tongue that could fire back a devastating insult guaranteed to shut up even the most annoying harasser.

In hindsight, I guess I should thank them all. Formulating those insults helped me to realize how much I loved words and their combinations.

But still.

These were the days of the women’s movement. Television newscasts aired footage of protests and marches. Oh, how I wished I was old enough to wear a bra so I could burn it!

“What do you know, you’re a girl?”

When I was old enough to study Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work, his messages struck a chord. Obviously, my inconveniences were nothing compared to what he and his people had endured. Dr. King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial still gives me chills.

“I have a dream that my four little 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.”

When Barack Obama was elected president almost four years ago, I thought maybe the United States had finally become enlightened and could see past someone’s skin color to respect the person within.

I was wrong.

It seems the hate only intensified, lashing out at Muslims, gays and so many other targets.

I did not understand it as a child, and I still don’t get it. Who cares what color someone is? What gender? What sexual preference? What religion? We are all richer for knowing many kinds of people, from all different backgrounds and perspectives. How lucky are we to have that experience?

We are all souls on our journeys, trying to navigate life the best we know how. It’s not us versus them. Him versus me. It is “we.”

Dr. King’s message reminds us of this. Today, I honor his memory and his message.

I hope you will, too.

Beverly Diehl over at Writing in Flow has organized a blogfest to promote a discussion on discrimination in our times and encourage some honest conversation about it. Please click on the link and see what other bloggers are saying. Thanks.


Jodi said…
Great job, Karen! Glad you wrote this today! Love doing the blogfest together!
R. Doug Wicker said…
One need only witness on a daily basis the hatred and vitriol directed at the President, a lot of it from talk radio and Fox "News," to reveal that we really haven't come all that far since the 1960s. Oh, sure, we don't come right out and attack his race. Instead, we now couch the attacks in silly conspiracy theories dealing with his place of birth, his religion, and other irrelevant and totally disproven falsehoods.

It's really disheartening. More so when the public airways . . . OUR airways . . . are misused for these purposes.
Liminal Fiction said…
Hear, hear. Shame to see racism still alive out there today. Thanks for sharing this post.
Beverly Diehl said…
Sometimes I get disheartened by the amount of hate I hear/read spewed, but I also see people standing up to denounce it. I'm not sure if it's truly worse than it used to be, or perhaps it's that, as I get older, I'm more aware of it.

I do think someday it can/will change, that it has changed for the better, if much more slowly than most of us would like.
Joanna said…
Karen, I am so glad you allowed that experience of childhood racism strengthen and form you! Your pro diversity message rings wonderfully forth from this blog post! Thank you!
Kae said…
Bravo! It's nice to know I'm not alone in my thoughts--sometimes it feels like it. Thank you for posting this.
Dafeenah said…
Great post. Thanks so much for sharing this. I too have always wondered why people can't just "agree to disagree". We can be different and still co-exist but it seems to be a difficult concept for most others to grasp. Glad we're all doing this blogfest today!
brenda said…
I echo Bev's sentiments. I worry all the time. I don't see the world coming closer to coexisting (and I live in San Francisco). I keep reminding myself, two steps forward, one back. I keep the faith we will get there.
Nice piece, Karen.

Hopefully MLK's dream and words will resonate. It's okay to stand up and voice what we believe in, but we must remember everyone has a belief system.
Claudine G. said…
Though we've learned how important it is to move past skin colours, the world is still learning to look past the rest and to accept differences.

Not judge one by his/her colour/culture, but by 'the contents of their character' ~ this part, we'll keep learning.

I love the banner of different religious symbols. And am so proud to see mine (Taoism) up there. They all look so pretty!

Julie Farrar said…
Hopping over from the blogfest. Some days I'm just so sad that overt racism seems to have increased since the last presidential election. I thought that election meant we were finally moving forward. It makes me embarrassed for our country.
Dangerous Linda said…
Hi, Karen! ~

We are in sync as I used the 'coexist' banner in my MLK post, too!

Thank you for all that you are! The world is a better place because YOU are here ;-)
Stacy S. Jensen said…
Great post. Thanks for sharing this message.

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