Well, today was Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday today. Typically all it means to me is having the boys home from school, closed banks, and no mail. However, today I wrestled with my thoughts about who MLK was, what he did, and why. Since I was born in the 60s and in Alabama I do have some memories of desegregation, although MLK had already been assassinated before I was born. I remember hearing talk of George Wallace Jr. and his famous “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” speech. I have since read a few books about civil rights type of issues and seen several documentaries on the subject.

I admire and respect MLK for his pivotal role in the civil rights movement and for being such a peaceful leader. As a white person who believes strongly in social justice, I like to think that I would have had black friends, would have been appalled at the concept of separate white/black water fountains, restaurants, and bathrooms, and would have been proactive in the civil rights movement. I like to think that I would have registered black people to vote and marched alongside them fighting for equal rights. But…being a child of the strong white culture in southeastern Alabama I don’t know if I really would have. I used to say the “n-word” frequently as a child because I heard it so often and it was a socially acceptable word to say in our circles. I can remember thinking in elementary school that black people were really different from white people and it wasn’t until middle or high school that I realized that all people are basically the same. I don’t know if I would have risked having the KKK burn a cross in my yard, throw rocks through my window, call me a “Ni**er lover,” or having white people whom I cared about think less of me for participating in the civil rights movement. I don’t know how I would have responded back then if I had been old enough to understand it all, but I like to think I know how I would respond now. I hope so anyway.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek (black nor white–my paraphrase), slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

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