Let freedom ring every day of the year
There are times in my life when I am ashamed of being a white person. I look back on history to see that the white person has done so many evil things to others because we thought we were superior. As if skin color has anything to do with the quality of the individual or the power one should have over another.
With Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday two days from now (the national observation of it is a week from today) it brings to mind the horrors of our past, the inequities that exist today and the hope our future can be better.
There is a place in Memphis that all Americans should visit — the National Civil Rights Museum. I first heard of it a couple years ago while visiting friends in Mississippi. We drove to Tennessee for the day to visit the museum. It should be the reason why people go to Memphis, not Graceland.
The site itself it surreal. The museum is in the Lorraine Motel. The same motel where King was gunned down by James Earl Ray while he stood on the balcony on April 4, 1968. King would have turned 74 this year.
The museum is full of historical facts not contained in history books. It is enlightening, tear-jerking, non-preachy in its presentation. There are several interactive exhibits in the 40,000 square foot building that opened in 1991. You can get a feel for what it’s like to have a bus driver tell you to get to the back of the bus. I would like to think I would have had Rosa Parks’ courage to say no.
The museum is filled with exhibits starting with slavery and ending with race relations today. Maybe Trent Lott will get his own exhibit.
Apparently King’s dream still has not come true. “I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice,” King said with passion 30 years ago.
It was fitting that King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The great emancipator was an inspiration for many blacks and whites.
I wonder if King would think we had come very far in the time he delivered that speech on Aug. 28, 1963. Undoubtedly we have. Blacks and whites eat, sleep and drink in the same places. Little black boys and girls can join hands with little white boys and girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
Are blacks free at last? I suppose it depends who you ask. For the most part yes is my answer, though unfortunately it is hard for me to imagine a world without prejudice, without intolerance, without racism.
Racism is here in South Lake Tahoe. It is with disgust that I read a letter to the editor that has yet to be published in the Tahoe Daily Tribune about a brick being thrown through a window of a home decorated in celebration of King’s birthday. This is the fifth straight year vandals have damaged this residence.
Why? Why does such hatred occur? Maybe I am just naive. I truly do not understand why people can hate people who are different than themselves.
There is so much to be learned from people who are not like us. To hate someone because they have a different skin color, are a different ethnicity, go to a different church, pray to a different god, choose to be with someone of the same sex — we’re all just people. Get rid of the hatred. Hate is a learned behavior; it’s time to unlearn it.
Kathryn Reed is managing editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. She may be reached at (530) 541-3880, ext. 251 or vial e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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