Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Real In Alabama

When Dr. Martin Luther King said,

I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

my generation was embroiled in the painful integration of the schools. We were the guineas, the living material of a Petri dish of social change. For all said on both sides, it was our daily routines, our social interests that had to adapt to the strangers put among us by law and not always out of choice. For all the praises now of that time, it was a hard slog to get past stereotypes and baiting, but most hard to get past the fear bred into us. Fear was our inheritance, a legacy of separate worlds, separate cultures and separate destinies. With every riot in the halls, every protest, every fight behind the gym, every kid held up to a wall for money, or threatened with bricks, or threatened with worse, we thought it a terrible time and a wonderful time, so great were our differences. It would take generations to make Dr. King's dream real. So we thought.

When my daughter asked me last weekend what she should write for her school assignment for the holiday my generation had celebrated as Robert E. Lee Day, I told her that she should remember her black friends and that part of Dr. King's speech. She should understand that some dreams are realized, if imperfectly, if late, if only in part, but that part realized is to be celebrated. Here in 2006, almost 40 years and most of my life later, it isn't a dream. It is real. My son and my daughter are that dream.

For justice' sake, for the sake of our children, for the sake of all children, be hopeful, be patient, be determined. What is dreamed can become real. Fear may live on, but a generation of praiseworthy parents can choose not to will it to their children.

As Dr. King said rightly, "Thank God almighty."

1 comment:

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