Monday, January 16, 2012

Still Dreaming

So, I'm sitting here watching a special on the Oprah Winfrey Network (of all things!) about the Freedom Riders specifically, and the Civil Rights Movement in general, and I'm getting angry.

Not because of Oprah herself, mind you. Not this time, at least.

But because of the countless numbers of narrow-minded people, many of them unfortunately from the South, who devoted their lives to destroying the rights and, yes, even the lives of other human beings for no other reason than that their skin was a darker shade.

And that supposedly made these people less human, somehow inferior beings. It infuriates me!

Injustice always infuriates me, whether it affects me personally or not. But racial prejudice just gets under my skin more than anything else.

I wasn't raised to think of people of other races as anything less than I am. I don't even know what thinking that way feels like. So, it's hard for me to put myself in the shoes of the oppressors. I can only identify with the oppressed.

I have never had to deal with prejudice from a personal standpoint, i.e. having someone discriminate against me because of the way I look, or where my ancestors came from. But I have often had to hear hurtful, hateful words used to describe African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and other minorities from acquaintances, friends, and family members. And almost without exception I have challenged the speaker to use a different word, at least in my presence, to describe the people they are talking about, because I won't accept the derogatory term they've used.

I scolded my own grandmother for doing this more times than I can count. She was a genuinely good person, but she was raised in a different era when racial prejudice was the norm, in the South in particular. But even that is no excuse.

Anyone can transcend what they've been taught. Hatred is not congenital. Prejudice doesn't have to be either.

Maybe someday the dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned, and fought for, and even died for, will come true. But we're not there yet...

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