In the grand scheme of things, this is an incredibly short period of time. It’s truly difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that just 50 short years ago, my mother and father lived in a society that had racism woven into its very fabric and into our very hearts.
It was just 50 years ago today that Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and spoke words that would be seared into the consciousness of humanity forever. Words that, as I read them today, stir something deep inside of me. Force me to recon with reality and ask hard questions.
Words like: “… for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.” – MLK
I often wonder where I would have stood 50 years ago.
I’m a southern guy. I was born and raised in the same small Texas town that my parents and their parents and their parent’s parents grew up in. A heritage that had been built for a century of mainly good hard working, church-going people that trained their kids to do the same. Our town didn’t have a single person of color as a resident for years. Although this is not necessarily evidence that everyone that lived their was seething with racial bigotry, it is still a fact that is difficult to swallow.
I wonder if this white boy, from an all white town in the south, would have even considered the fact that perhaps this black preacher on TV was speaking truth. Perhaps, just maybe, there was something off in our hearts that made us just go along with the norm of considering people of a different skin color than us inferior. Would the social pressure around me have just lulled me into a complacent attitude that said, “It’s just not that big of a deal… I shouldn’t ruffle feathers”?
So, that’s where I come from.
As everyone spends today reflecting back on the past 50 years of racial progress in our society, I look at my own heritage and history. Just 50 years after Dr. King stood in front of America and spoke words that may have caused people in my family to scoff or think that this just wasn’t the best direction for things at the time… I look at my sons.
I have living, breathing proof that at least some things in our society have changed.
I’m sure that in August of 1963 that my grandparents would have never in a million years thought that one of their grandchildren would be an African American. As kids at the time, my parents could have probably never have imagined in their lifetime that their son could have a transracial family, in the south, and live to write about it online for anyone to read.
I get thick tears in the corners of my eyes when I think about the fact that our two sons (brown and white) literally join hands each day and run around our house. The dream… alive and well in our very home.
But, it even weighs heavier on me when I am able to see my grandparents, who were white adults living in the deep south in the 60’s, sit with my boy in their lap and treat him as an equal in our family.
Only by the grace of God.
I don’t intend to insinuate that we’re living in race-free paradise here in America. It’s far from it. I absolutely believe that Americans are still judged by the color of their skin before the content of their character can ever be discovered. Every. Single. Day. I believe that my brown son faces more of a challenge in our society than my white son will ever be able to grasp… simply because of the color of his skin. It’s true. We see it with our own eyes.
But, I also live in hope that God will continue to rid of hearts of the seeds of racism that spout up into the way we interact with one another. I believe that it’s happening. I believe that it can happen.
Today, I’m overwhelmingly grateful for thousands of people 50 years ago that took a stand for what was, without a doubt, the right thing to stand for.
Your legacy lives on. It was worth the trip to the Capitol that hot day in August. Thank you.