Three books I read as a teenager shaped my awareness of historic institutionalized racism in our country.
Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice (I wanted to do a book report on it at the time but my high school English teacher wouldn’t let me).
The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
And Why We Can’t Wait, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book on the civil rights movement in America.
I’ll never forget how one of my parents’ friends, a man I worked for at the time in La Jolla where I grew up, dismissed King as a “communist” and questioned the value of reading the book.
That was San Diego, California in the early 1980s. Now I live in Houston, Texas in Trump America. Much has changed in the meantime but, sadly, much has remained the same.
Earlier this month, the conservative journalist and cultural commentator David Brooks wrote about “the populist ethno-nationalists” in the incoming administration.
Isn’t it time that we stop euphemizing the politics of bigotry that defined Trump’s road to the White House and call it what it really is?
I hear so many people say that they voted for Trump because of the economy, because of jobs, because of immigration, because of trade, because of government corruption. Fair enough. If you believe that his policies are really going to change America for the better, I hope you are right (although I doubt that you are). He’s about to become the president and his party controls both chambers of the U.S. congress and we are all waiting anxiously to see what comes to pass.
But anyone who claims that Trump’s campaign wasn’t rooted in bigotry and racism has conveniently and tragically turned a blind eye to his repeated racist outbursts. And anyone who ignores the fact that he has filled his administration with political agents who are either insensitive or outwardly opposed to the civil rights movement is equally blind to the new Trump America.
On this day celebrating the life, legacy, and achievements of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., I ask you to:
– think about how your black neighbors feel when they see a Confederate flag on your other neighbor’s porch or truck;
– think about how our fellow black Americans feel when they have an incoming president who told them that they should vote for him because “what do you have to lose?”;
– think about your grandparents’ parents’ feelings about race and racism and how your own feelings about race and racism have evolved in your lifetime.
This year, on the eve of the federal holiday commemorating the historic civil rights movement’s greatest figure, Trump injuriously libeled and insulted a man who literally marched with King and who has served our country ever since. He’s one of the most respected politicians of our lifetime.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2017, I ask you not to turn a blind eye to the bigotry that surrounds us. Only we can know what we feel in our hearts, unless we decide to share what we feel with our sisters and brothers.
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!
Image via Wikipedia Creative Commons.