Now, I may have been green behind the ears when it came to insulting comebacks, but I knew - even then - that it was better to stay quiet than give that as a retort.
Nigger, Chink, Spic, Gook, Mick, Kike were all phrases that were common to me by the time I was done with second grade. My boys - they never heard these terms in use - not even in movies. On occasion I might call them a half-a-cracker but they assume I'm talking about the ones that get crumbled in soup. Besides, how insulting is it to be called a cracker anyway? Guess that's a Southern thing - it's always about food.
But with all seriousness, every year the boys bring home school work and information about Dr. King for M.L.K. day. They read about segregation - I fill in the details and then I comment, "That's fucked up right?" I'd rather not curse, but there's really no other way to say it. To candy coat it would be like saying Hitler really just needed a better barber.
By the time I came around, Dr. King's movement was but a newborn baby. Do I remember every slight? Yes, I remember. Every-single-incident. I was a child learning ABC's, like my kids are learning now. These days, we're concerned with reading levels - back then it was tolerance levels. Even in New York, the most liberal, melting pot mecca of the country - there were lines.
I think about it and wonder how much parents must've worried about sending their children out into the world. Would they return with their innocence intact or would some violation against their humanity force them to grow up early? And that's not even including the pedophile predators or other psychos lurking as well. And what about the generations of parents before them - it wasn't even a worry for them but a fact of life.
At times, I feel that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew he would never live to see the fruition of his dream. Children who see character before they see stereotypes. Children who notice all the beautifully variant skin tones rather than just black and white. They appreciate diversity - they're charmed by it, even. Just as Dr. King had dreamed, children on opposite sides - holding hands.
They have evolved...
...to play Angry Birds.
But I'll take it.
|Photo taken by my BFF's dad - She's on the right, I'm in the middle|