Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Dream

I watched MLK's I Have a Dream speech twice today with my students, and the part about people being judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin struck me a little differently.

Usually, I interpret it as people being seen for who they are--especially in terms of positive attributes--rather than being dragged down by negative racial stereotypes.

But it cuts another way, too.

When someone who is white commits a heinous act, I--as a white person--feel the pain the way humanity feels the pain, but I am not expected to feel the guilt or the shame or to bear any responsibility because I share the perpetrator's skin color. In fact, I do not have to worry that his or her actions will reflect on me in any way.

That is my privilege.

This is my dream: That one day all people who commit heinous acts will be judged by the content of their character and not be used to judge others who share the color of their skin.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Stranger Than Fiction

Not long ago, I read in a novel about the murder of Leon Trotsky, which happened in the study of his own home. He met his end after a hatchet was lodged his skull. Soon after, my sister--who was spending a couple of months in Mexico City--posted a picture of the very study in which Trotsky was killed. She had just visited the house. We figured out there was a decent chance I had read the account of his death at about the same time she was at the scene.

This is a pretty dramatic example of a phenomena that happens to me all the time. I read something and soon after I experience something that reminds me of it in real life. Or I experience something in real life and soon after I find myself reading something that reminds me of it.

Another example, not as dramatic. A couple of days after the Trotsky incident we discovered a huge beetle on the bathroom windowsill, thankfully on the outside of the screen. Not even an hour later, I settled into bed and started reading. And, no kidding, this is the second--the second!!--sentence I came to: "Here is a strange beetle, trapped inside the window near the desk."

Today it happened again.

I'm in the middle of a memoir of a woman who is currently recounting some of her experiences during the civil rights movement in 1960's Georgia. After we finished our dentist appointments this morning, Jack talked me into taking him to the store so he could spend some of the money we owed him for allowance and mowing the lawn. I didn't have enough in small bills to pay him, so I sent him in to break a $100 bill I had leftover from our vacation. We joked about whether the cashier would be suspicious.

I stayed in the car to read.

Jack probably hadn't even made it into the store before I came to this line: "I learned that Charles had gone to the junkyard to buy a part for one of the old cars we used, and he'd tried to pay with a hundred-dollar bill. The junkyard dealer had called the police, and they'd taken him to jail."

All. The. Time.