January 21st is the day we remember Martin Luther King’s birthday. This Tuesday on what should be a day for Americans to put aside politics and come together to honor the legacy of an extraordinary American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK Day should be about his his teachings on love, his commitment to ministering the Gospel, his dream of equality for all people. I have a sneaky suspicion we will be hearing very little of that but more on how divided the media thinks we are as a country.
As I get older and reflect on my life I realize that I must have been oblivious to my surroundings when I was young when it came to race. After all I was growing up in the South at a time where I can remember the separate bathrooms. I remember integration at Indian Land High School. I don’t recall having any problems when the black kids from Barr Street High came to ILHS and if there were who could have blamed them. Looking back now, that had to be a awful experience for those kids. When I was young I never saw Hank Aaron as a black player or white for that matter. He was an Atlanta Brave, my team. So was Rico Carty, Ralph Garr, Orlando Cepeda. Black or white, who cared. I was color blind. I never noticed that the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates were the first team to start an all African American starting lineup. All I knew was Doc Ellis pitched a no hitter while tripping on LSD. Now that was a big deal.
My grandmother always told me to try to put yourself into someone’s place. I have tried to do that all of my life. I admit I could be naive when it comes to race but to be honest I am happy to be naive. I guess in part because of what I see. I read in the press and listen to news that the race problem is worse than it has ever been. I have concluded that race issues will always be with us, some conjured up and some real but I see the good in people. I see it everytime I volunteer at the soup kitchen. I see these people who are mostly white and conservative open up the doors and love on people. I see people shed tears, pray, all sorts of acts of kindness with those on the other side of the serving window, and yes most of these are African Americans. I do not see the race issue as other people may because again of what I experience, not what may be reported on CNN. I also know to say there isn’t any racism would be stupid on my part. The ugliness of Charlottesville has shown us that.
Over the summer we vacated and one of our stops was Memphis. We went by the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was assassinated. It was a eerie experience. I walked back in time. The motel, the cars, the sign. The quietness of people who were gathered there. Nothing had changed from that early morning, April 4th 1968 when those shots rang out in the Memphis sky. I can only hope that we will change and like Dr. King said “not judge by the color of their skin but the content of their character.” Amen Dr. King, Amen.