MLK Holiday 2013: A Conversation Around Race

21 Jan

martinlutherI’m glad that we have a National holiday honoring civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  What troubles me is how far we have yet to go in the civil rights movement.  I hear people talking now about the March on the Mall in Washington, yet they don’t know the March was organized by the openly gay Bayard Rustin.  Hearing so many people purporting to have been present during King’s I Have a Dream speech, also leaves me a bit bothered. We like to pretend that we are not a nation continuing to struggle with racism; I have even heard people use the phrase “post-racist” society as though that was something real and already achieved.  Yet we have no further to look than the numbers.

Let us start with the Senate.  Of the 100 Senators currently serving, only one of them is African-American (and he was appointed to his current office).  Moving on to the House of Representatives (note the word Representatives), of the 435 civil servants (albeit 433 right now due to current vacancies), only 41 are African-American.  Of the 50 Governors only one is African-American. Of the nearly 8300 U.S. mayors, only about 650 are African American. This disproportionality in representation and leadership clearly speaks to how far we have yet to go.

As one can see the power structure is still fundamentally white, male, Christian, and heterosexual.  Whether we want to admit it or not, most people still benefit from institutionalized racism.  I am not saying most people are racist, in fact, I would assert that most people are not racist (save for the Tea Party), yet we have a mass of people who are the beneficiaries of racism.

I am grateful for the significant strides being made for civil rights and social justice, but let us acknowledge there is still much work to be done around people that are marginalized and how we treat people that are not part of the institutional power structure.  Dr. King’s voice of advocacy for civil rights has room for many others to join the choir and push back against how we “other” people and strip populations of their dignity–now is not the time to be satisfied:

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity…–I Have a Dream, Dr. King

TSM also wants to wish a heart felt congratulations to President Obama on his second inauguration! I hope everyone gets to see the amazing Myrlie Evers deliver the Invocation.  I also want to note that the openly gay  Latino Richard Blanco is the inaugural poet–nice choice.

6 Responses to “MLK Holiday 2013: A Conversation Around Race”

  1. dykewriter January 21, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    its’ because you keep having to have the conversation


    it’s like America is also still fighting roe v wade

    do people really want government to be nothing more than

    one party undoing what the last one did?

    I think it’s because America is too personality cult oriented

    and not actually legislative framework with actual law and order orientation

    everyone wants to impose

    and no one wants to work within a system that could work

    if it was allowed to

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt January 21, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      It does take a while to shift norms, but I’m grateful we are shifting them. I just witnessed the President of the United States advocate for LGBT rights during his inauguration and reference Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. Wow!

      • dykewriter January 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

        I missed it

        but saw some bits on facebook

  2. Christine Noble January 21, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    Spot on as always Michael. I will have thoughts to share on this issue tomorrow.


  1. MLK Holiday 2013: A Conversation Around Race « Central Oregon Coast NOW - January 21, 2013

    […] MLK Holiday 2013: A Conversation Around Race. […]

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