When I was an undergraduate student at Purdue University, we had a speaker who charged us as soon-t0-be African-American professionals, to never be afraid nor ashamed to share our culture with people from other cultures. Even in 2008, our society is constructed in such a way that many people have never had an African-American peer anywhere: as a neighbor, classmate, co-worker, or superior. So the speaker said, the onus was on us, if things were to get better, to be proactive and confident in sharing our culture with our white peers. Now, to those who've never experienced prejudice or hatred, these stories may sound like so much whining. "Just get over it" is the popular sentiment. But see as long as racism exists, I can't forget and won't get over it, or it will never be eradicated. My ancestors, my parents, grands, and great-grands sacrificed and endured too much for me to forget. One more hanging noose - in a school yard in Jena, LA or in verbal reference on cable television to what Tiger Woods' opponents should do to him - is one too many for me. Here are just a few stories:
My mother and her sister were only able to go roller-skating two Fridays a month at their local roller rink in Indiana, because these were the only days of the month blacks were allowed. Mother said she never knew what downtown Owensboro, KY looked like until she was an adult, because Jim Crow was in effect, and her parents didn't want them exposed to segregated entrances, drinking fountains, and restaurants. Her high school senior class voted to cancel their class trip to the Smokey Mountains because the hotel told them black students would not be able to stay there.My father, as most blacks during Jim Crow, was refused service for the first time at a gas station while serving in the Army in Ft. Hood TX. Before going to the Army, he had college basketball scholarship rescinded after the college learned he was black.
After moving to NC, I met a lady at an art store who told me the anguish she felt about lying to her children that public restrooms were 'too dirty' to use, when the truth was they were not allowed as blacks to use them at that time. When I was a sales rep in Chicago, one of my newly assigned customers telling my manager he wished my company would quit sending these "spooks" to be his sales reps.
So, I'll close with the first part of MLK's "Dream" speech, the part you won't hear on the news tonight - dubbed the "Broken Promise" part by one of my blogging role models,political blogging pioneer Christopher Rabb of Afro-Netizen(TM).
"Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.
One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.
So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." --Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.