I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Martin Luther King Jr….perhaps one of the most celebrated revolutionaries in our time; perhaps even in the history of man. Today is the day we remember…we remember the spirit of a man who had the strength to stand up and fight for his people…the man who fought for freedom and was instrumental in ending one of the darkest blots on American History: segregation.
I’m glad I was born after the era of segregation…after the speeches made by King…after the riots in the streets. I’m glad, because I can’t wrap my brain around separating a society based on physical characteristics or heritage…because I would never be able to see a difference between “this group” and “that group”. I’m thankful for my own freedoms…my freedom to love whomever I want…to be friends with whomever I want…and to live in a society where “all men are created equal.”
But do I? Do I live in a world where “all men are created equal”? The idealistic part of my brain wants to believe it’s true. I want to do what I’m supposed to do on this day, which is remember. Then again, I’m thankful for the end of segregation every day. I don’t need a holiday to tell me that there is no difference between black and white…I don’t need a “reminder” to pay homage to Martin Luther King, Jr’s message. Still, as I read the words to his infamous “I have a dream” speech, it seems that King still has a message to share.
As much as we like to think that the end of segregation created an equal society, sometimes I’m afraid that isn’t true. There is still plenty of division in this world. I’m going to talk a little about that division and this is going to be a rather lengthy post. I will try to make it as brief as possible but I have a lot to say about this. Please read the entire post…you won’t understand where I’m going with this whole thing unless you do…and please give me your feedback.
Why does racial division still exist? Is it because white people are racist? Maybe. I’m white and I’m not racist…but I know plenty of white people who are less than accepting of other races. On the same token, I know a lot more who are perfectly accepting of other races. Is it because black people are racist? Perhaps. That seems to be the chief complaint from the 1% of white people that have a “problem” with black people….(to quote one of them)…”They’re more racist than we are”.
When I hear things like that, I know that something is still wrong here. Why are we still grouping people by a them and us system? When I say we, I’m generally referring to the whole of humanity. If I’m being specific, it’s because I’m referring to my immediate family or a group of people (such as a class or my group of friends). I don’t quite grasp the concept of one race of people being a them and another group being an us. How can we, 50 years passed the end of segregation, still segregate people in our minds?
It’s true…white people aren’t the only ones who are guilty of racism. I just recently allowed myself to believe this. During a trip to WalMart, I was in the self-checkout. I was with my husband and I was trying to buy a Duck Dynasty item. Now, you can say what you want about the men of Duck Dynasty but I don’t know them personally so I try to reserve judgement. Sure, there are some things they say that I don’t agree with but it’s not up to me to judge them (or to let their ideals become my own). Anyway, my mother loves the show and I was trying to buy the item for her.
It was a situation where we needed a price check and my husband went to hunt the price while I stood with the attendant. We struck up a conversation and after a while she looked down at the item in her hand (with the faces of the Robertson boys) and says “Isn’t these guys racist?” This confounded me but if it was based on fact, I would be interested to know. I said back to her, “I don’t know. I don’t know them for real but my mom likes the show.” She admitted that she had never watched the show but she insisted that they just “looked mean”. I couldn’t wrap my brain around this and I did what I always do…I spoke my mind. My speech to her went a little like this:
“How can you say that somebody is racists based on the way they look? I don’t judge people based on the way they look. I would never label any of these men as racist unless I personally heard something from their mouth that made me think they were. It’s just not right to be like that toward people.”
She didn’t buy it. She insisted that they look “mean” and “they must be racist”, although she couldn’t tell me exactly why. By the time my husband had gotten back from checking the price, I had noticed that people around us (of all races) had stopped to watch the exchange. He couldn’t find the price for the item and we walked out of the store without the item. I don’t know if the checkout lady thought about the exchange afterward but I did. I thought about it, a lot.
First, I had to reconcile the factors in my head. The checkout lady was black…I am white. I am certain that she wasn’t labeling me as a racist because she was comfortable enough to talk to me about it. So, I can assume that it isn’t the Robertson’s white skin that made her think they are racist. After all, I have white skin too and she was completely fine with me. So, what’s the difference between me and the guys of Duck Dynasty? Well, I was wearing jeans, a rastafarian shirt and a Bob Marley jacket…the Robertson boys look like what they are: rednecks.
I can assume that some interaction with this “group” of people (rednecks) has planted the seed that the entire group is racist. My experience has been different. I grew up in the country and I was surrounded by a mixed bag in this department. Some of the people from this culture that I encountered were racist…others weren’t. I can’t get from that point to the point where I believe that all members of the group ascribe to a set of universal principles. I still can’t categorize.
I also think that the media has something to do with this. I know that along with the “gay bashing” hype, there was a story where Phil Robertson had said something about the time of segregation that made a lot of people think he was racist. I don’t know if he is, or not, because my experience with the media helps me to understand that things can be taken out of context. I still refuse to judge somebody until I have met that person, myself.
Whether it’s a seed planted by personal experience or by the media, it has become apparent to me that the strands which led to segregation still exist. In order to truly overcome separation, we have to keep from categorizing people and ascribing those categories with universal properties. We have to allow ourselves to make up our mind on an individual basis. We have to truly give one another a chance and never accept that we can’t love someone else just because they come from a different group or place.
Sexual Division and Moral Division
This doesn’t only apply to racial division but it also applies to sexual division and moral division. Some days, I think the days of men typecasting and discriminating against women is over…some days I do not. Still, I know that 90% of the women that I know are more than strong enough to handle it when someone tries to put her down, simply, because she has a vagina. I really don’t see feminism as a problem in our society, except for the ones I have met along the way who use being a woman to bend the world to their own will. THAT I have a problem with. How is it that women have fought so long for a freedom, simply so that women of today can use their vaginas like a “get out of jail free” card.
But I digress, because women’s rights really isn’t a pertinent issue in today’s time. I mean, it is but not as big as the issues that are facing people who identify with an “alternative” sexual orientation. When I see the fight for gay rights unfolding, it reminds me how unaccepting people can be when it counteracts their own moral compass. I guess I understand this. For instance, I don’t believe in murder. So, when someone commits murder, I admittedly don’t like that person. I identify that person as “bad”. However, I just don’t see what’s “bad” about loving someone of the same sex or identifying with a gender that is not your birth gender.
Love is always a good thing, no matter how it’s expressed (amongst consenting adults) and the ability to accept oneself for the inside matter rather than the outside is a beautiful thing. What I find, however, is that some people who have decided (for whatever reason), that these things are morally wrong don’t want any ties or connection to people who engage in this type of lifestyle. It’s not that I can say that’s wrong but I can say that it certainly creates division. When two groups of people refuse interaction it creates a “me” and “us” mentality. On one side, you have the straight people of the world and, in our minds (and through the law), we have separated them from the people who are not straight.
I straddle the line, here. I am both straight and gay (you can disagree if you like but this is my reality). I am also a morally righteous person…so where does that put me? What group do I stand in when the “roll is called up yonder”. Here’s my answer to that question: and you’re not going to like it…WHO CARES?
Surely, you’re not going to be standing in the line to heaven/paradise, looking around and gossiping about the people who didn’t make it? If you think you are, you might want to re-think that because the Christian Bible groups that kind of catty behavior right along with homosexuality. It is literally IN THE SAME verse as the one which is often used to speak against laying with someone of the same sex…Still, there are plenty of morally righteous people who talk about gay people behind their back and in secret corners…who talk about the neighbors and the pastor’s wife and anybody who does anything they don’t like…but that is never met with the same condemnation as homosexuality. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Division of Faith
The previous rant brings me to this one. Perhaps the most I have ever felt discriminated against is because of my faith. I was once Christian…I hold the Christian faith in high regard. Now, I’m Pagan (Druid, specifically) and I hold the Pagan faith in high regard as well. I don’t really see a lot of difference between them. I mean, of course, in practice they are very different. However, they are both systems which help people find a deeper connection in life…they are both systems which (hopefully) create a moral backbone for the individual which will foster love and compassion in this world.
So, how is this so often translated that this love and compassion is only directed toward groups which the individual deems “worthy” of it? There is not a god, goddess, prophet, son of god, seer or mystic who ever said “Love everyone except ____.” I don’t care what religion (or non-religion) you are, if you have the capacity to love and be compassionate, I hold you in the same high regard as anybody else.
I will say this: coming out of the broom closet taught me a thing or two about how discrimination works. After I had been discriminated against, over and over, I began to see a wall forming. I began to see my own mind thinking, “all Christians hate me”. That, in and of itself, is a discriminatory thought and it is something I had to fight back against. What I learned is to accept the fact that people will naturally have certain preconceived notions about what the symbol around my neck (a pentacle), means. After accepting that, I had to decide what to do about it.
What I learned is that it doesn’t take very long, in talking with someone of a different faith, to come to common ground. After all, some believe that all faith systems drink from the same well and although we may not agree on everything, people of different faiths share something in common. The topics that are “hot button”, I try to stay away from. I focus on the similarities and delight in learning something from someone who shares a different point of view. To this day, I have not met a person of a different faith that, after a little conversation, does not have the ability to be accepting of my “Pagan ways”. All I have to do is give a little accepting, first.
Social Division and Separation of Class
Perhaps the fastest growing type of division is the social division and separation of class. It’s not new but it’s definitely rearing its head with ferocity, lately. I’m not going to get into the different categories of class or anything like that because I can write another 4,000 words on that thought alone. I will simply break the division down into a group of “haves” and “have-nots” (thank you, Tyler Perry).
In our nation, the “haves” look down on the “have nots” as morally corrupt and lazy beings; basically, not worthy of the time of day (or a fair wage). On the other hand, the “have nots” see the “haves” as morally corrupt and spoiled beings; taking advantage of the lifestyle afforded by their daily work. It becomes an endless cycle of blame when, in fact, the economy of our society depends on a perfect balance of the two.
Conclusion: The Benefits of a Segregated Society.
I feel like before the end of segregation, there was a brick wall in between the different groups in our society. Martin Luther King Jr, and other revolutionary soldiers, broke down these brick walls. There are still glass walls in their place, and new types of division starting up every day. We still have boundaries…as much as I would like to assume that we don’t, I can’t. What I can do is try to pinpoint the reasons why these divisions still exist.
I think I’ve done a good job of doing that throughout. I know that categorization, moral righteousness and misunderstanding are (often) not proponents of breaking the walls that divide us. However, I think it’s good to look at the antecedent factors. What is good about a segregated society and who actually WANTS us to remain divided?
People who are divided don’t fight wars together…they fight wars against one another. So, while we’re trying to solve the mysteries of the universe…(like which skin color is supreme, how to “define” love, who’s going to heaven and who is not, there is a war being waged against our individual liberties. One by one, the reigns of justice are being tightened against our necks and we’re too busy worrying about what people are doing in their own bedrooms to care. Why is it that we don’t believe that a united front is the best attack against tyranny, when our founding fathers did?
I can’t answer the “who” part of the question…I don’t know exactly who is waging the war on our freedom. I do know that it’s often not the person who everyone blames (in this case, Obama). I don’t know what Obama’s motivations in office are or even if what he is doing is right or wrong. I don’t know because it’s impossible to know the truth about what goes on in our government. Is the entirety of government to blame? Perhaps. Perhaps it’s only one or two…perhaps it’s not the government at all. The government is too large and transparency is too far gone to truly make that determination. In fact, it almost seems like a slight of hand trick, meant to misdirect our anger and frustration.
All I know is this: the Middle Class is getting too close to the lower class and the lower class is falling away, to a point where we are about to see a lot more women and children dying in the street. The American Dream is dying and somebody who is born on the bottom better start resigning to staying there their entire lives. I do know that the type of hopelessness and resentment that is growing in our society is very dangerous. In the end, the controlling factors (the unknown antecedent to our separations) will be the only ones segregated from the damage that is done.