As I sit back and enjoy this time off from work, it only makes sense to reflect on the historic nature of the day. It’s Martin Luther King Day and the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. Isn’t it ironic that Obama’s big day falls on the day that we celebrate the life of the man who in many ways paved the way for him to become president of this country?
On a personal level, I tend to see the impact of Martin Luther King’s dream whenever I think about my Caucasian friends, particularly the women.
I was brought up in a racially diverse environment. I attended a mixed elementary school that was located in what I’d now consider as a great side of town (Battleground Ave., Benjamin Pkwy., Friendly Ave., and West Wendover Ave. are considered the good sides of town in Greensboro). I grew up as a fan of wrestling which is a sport heavily dominated by whites. Many of my close friends and people I interact with in the blogosphere are white. In my lifetime I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter very few instances of what I’d describe as blatant racism, though I’m sure I’ve experienced the more subliminal type many times.
One of the most important periods of my life began in the summer of 2007 when I started working at my local grocery store. Being that Reidsville is a mostly white (well maybe not) country city, most of my coworkers happened to be white. No big surprise there. But it was a big surprise once I got to form real friendships with them, many of which last to this very day.
During the weekends and after work, me and my coworkers would hang out and go to bowl or grab a bite to eat. We’d celebrate birthdays and went on trips. In every outing I was the only black person in our party. I never really stopped to think much about it and they would’ve loved me I was green. In fact, one of them actually told me such!
Then it hit me: If I was born about 25 years sooner, I would’ve likely been assaulted or discriminated against if I was seen in public with them. I may not have been able to even develop friendships with them at all. And that’s important because many of them have become an integral part of my life and I can only imagine how different my life would be without them.
Whenever I read about the Civil Rights Movement it really sticks out to me that one of the cardinal sins any black male could commit was to interact with a white woman. Emmett Till, a 14 year old boy from Mississippi, was murdered for allegedly flirting with one. A prevailing theme of the film The Birth of a Nation is that white women viewed black men as a fate worse than death. There is a scene where a white woman jumps from a cliff after being cornered by one.
Flash forward to the present.
Even though racism is still alive and well in America, society has made leaps and bounds in regards to race relations. Do I ever think racism will completely vanish? No. There will always be those afraid to embrace anything that looks different from what they are taught to believe is pure. Those people will always influence their children and future generations to hate.
One of the proudest moments of my life occurred a few years ago when I was invited to the baby showers of two of my best friends. It was an honor because apparently I made enough of an impact in their lives for them to invite me to such an important event. Aside from the fathers, I don’t think men are typically invited to baby showers!
So I’d like to thank Martin Luther King for paving the way for me to be a part of the lives of some very special people. They have been such a blessing to me.