Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Outstretched Hands and Pointing Fingers

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X meet bef...Image via Wikipedia
Happy Marting Luther King Jr. Day.

For me, racism can be approached two different ways, either with an outstretched hand or a pointing finger. When I think back upon Martin Luther King Jr. I think of an outstretched hand. In his time honored "I Have a Dream" speech he called on Americans to look not to the color of our skin, but to the content of our character. My mother used to say that there are good and bad people, no matter the what they look like on the outside. 

Unfortunately, much of the rhetoric I hear ignores the content of men and women's character and focuses on the color of someones' skin. Basically, it is the pointing finger approach that I hear. I once had a friend of mine tell me, "You have no idea what it is like to be black and be an American!" Here's the deal: I NEVER said I did. I was eating my lunch, saying nothing, precisely because I am not black and growing up black is not my experience. The flip side is that my friend, (I gently replied that I never said I did know what his experience as a black man was like), had no idea what my experience as a white man was like, although he was pretty much assuming he did. My friend and I went to the same private school in elementary and middle school. we both went to private colleges. We both had the same positions in our company. That does not mean our experiences were the same getting there. My friend had just read a book by a white liberal guy blaming all the other white, mostly conservative white people, for all the crimes, injustices and poverty known to African Americans. A pointing, blaming finger without many solutions, just deflection of blame.

When I talk to people, no matter their color, race, religion, or political hankering, in the end we have the same hopes and dreams. What disturbs me the most is that most political dialogue does not unite us but divides us. As a parent I believe I am like any parent in that I want my child to grow up in a world where he or she is free to be who God created them to be. I know the world is not like that. But, I teach my children as I was taught that there are good and bad people, no matter what they look like on the outside and that the inside is what counts. And I teach them to reach out their hands and treat others as you would like to be treated. 
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