It’s said that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. travelled with a copy of Howard Thurman’s seminal book, Jesus and the Disinherited. “Considering the generations-long relationships between the King and Thurman families, Martin likely had the message of these pages etched on his heart,” writes Vincent Harding in the book’s forward.
I’ve been marinating on this book since November’s book club, and keep coming back to its central question, a haunting one which hides itself in the book’s title.
I’ll get to that question in a minute.
Continue reading “The Disinherited”
“The objective reality is that virtually no one who is white understands the challenge of being black in America.”
These past two weeks. Have left me with a dry mouth, unable to form words. I wanted to be able to say more but the letters on the screen all blurred together.
The death of George Floyd was but one in a long line of wake-up calls about racial disparity, but it’s a loud one.
But this dares me to have hope: that we might all agree there is a problem. And when we do, our call is to stay focused on addressing this problem amidst all the distracting reactions and counter-reactions.
“How did I miss this?”
To move forward, though, we must Continue reading “A Dry Mouth”
Pause to think for a moment: you’re boarding a public bus to head downtown for some errands, maybe to the department store before a Saturday lunch at a barstool diner. In front of you, an older gentlemen steps onto the bus, pays, and turns walks past the only empty seat in the front, all the way to the back where he will stand for the ride, because where he sits depends not on his age or order of boarding, but on the color of his skin. You follow him onto the bus and then, because your skin is white, rest yourself in that front seat.
White people in the front, Black people in the back.
And when you get off that bus, heading toward Woolworths, you stop for a drink at a water fountain. There’s a water fountain clearly designated for you, which you enjoy before a quick stop at the “Whites only” bathroom.
All of this happens out in the open, right there in the 1950s, in front of God and everybody. Continue reading “Tied into a Single Garment of Destiny with MLK”
“When we rode home together that afternoon, side by side in the backseat of his mother’s blue sedan, I was silent and so was he, pretending nothing had happened between us that day. But inside of me, something still and deep, something precious, had broken.”
Within the first chapter of Nicole Chung’s book, All You Can Ever Know, she’s heard her first racist slur. A schoolmate pulls “his eyes into slits”, sing-song chanting at her before they hop in the carpool together, like nothing happened. It’s only the 2nd grade, but the parents who adopted her at birth had insisted on being colorblind, which means this is her first introduction to race.
It’s taken me months to figure out why this book was so impacting — why I carried her story around in my heart as one of my own. Its influence on me didn’t entirely make sense, aside from the writer’s axiom that the more specific and personal the work, the more universal it is. But there is something more here, something I may not entirely want to talk about. Continue reading “All You Can Ever Know”
MLK Jr. Day has become a special day for me over the past decade. It was at an MLK celebration over ten years ago that I became painfully aware that the seeds of racism were still buried and growing in the soil of my soul… and my own unawareness of it was hard to accept. It wasn’t just that I was ignorant; for the first time I saw what a luxury it was to be ignorant. Being able to ignore race matters is what you might call a privilege.
As I became more aware of the real and subtle presence of racism today – in this country and also in my heart – it led me to learn more. After all, that was my real offense, wasn’t it, thinking it was all fine because it was all fine in my white world?
The obvious next step was to Continue reading “The Already and the Not Yet of MLK”