Forget the Rainbow!

Suzann Darnall

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
28 August 1963
So, am I the only person who thinks he meant he wanted ALL people to be judged by character and not by race??? What a shame that the 50th anniversary of MLK,Jr's great speech will be marred . . . by the prejudice of those who claim his mantle as civil rights activists. They actually wear a cloak of racism that is closer to the robes worn by the KKK. Bigotry comes in many forms and practicing it because of history is as shameful today as it was 50 years ago ... no matter the color of one's skin. Let us look to our character and seek to see others through a prism of their character . . . not looking through a window of skin color that can blind us to so much.

The above paragraph is what I wrote and posted on my FaceBook page yesterday. I wrote it after hearing some of what was going to be presented at the anniversary event and then hearing a very few of the speakers. Little did I know that it was going to be even worse than I expected.

I listened to several speakers yesterday, as well as some of the sound-bites, coverage, and commentary that took place before, during, and after the event. I was dismayed that this was not a celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr's dream being achieved to such a great extent, but rather another pity party put on by the race-baiting so-called civil rights leaders that refuse to acknowledge that America has come a long way in the past 50 years! Just another public display of their feigned outrage about how everything wrong in America is because we used to have slavery and segregation.

I know we have come a long way in 50 years. I have actually lived in the South a lot in my life and in Alabama three times in particular. I lived there as a child, as a young single woman, then as a wife and mother. I personally saw changes that happened between my times there.

When we lived in Alabama in the early 1960s one of my father's best friends was also an Air Force officer, like my father. With one difference. Russ was black. Actually, "Uncle" Russ was dark tan with freckles, but that made no difference to the laws of Alabama.

The United States Air Force did not have enough student housing at Maxwell Air Force Base for all the Squadron Officers School students and families, so they rented housing from the city of Montgomery. But, the housing came with rules. No blacks allowed . . . unless they entered through the back door. Yes, you read that right! If Russ, a USAF officer, was going to visit our home he had to come in the back door. Except for a little rule that Russ and my parents took advantage of! Workmen were allowed to enter by the front door. I suppose for the convenience of the lady of the house. So, Russ would wear his white overall uniform over his clothes, come in the front door, take off the overall, and life went on.

That was life in Alabama about the time Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement were marching on Washington. A time I remember even though I was very young. It was very bad.

Now, fast forward to my second time to live in Alabama. Again in Montgomery and Maxwell Air Force Base. But, it is now the mid 1970s.

I worked at a store in the mall. One of the little old ladies I worked with actually referred to small black children as "pickaninnies", which shocked me to no end! I knew the term from history and because it is also a kind of historical doll. But, had no idea anyone outside of the pre-Civil War South used it. So, I thought perhaps things were no better than they had been back in the early 1960s . . . until two events happened that let me know America was righting the long time wrongs, even if a little slower for some folks than others.

The first thing that happened was in conjunction with me hearing the derogatory term used about two little girls. But, you see, those little girls were the daughters of a lady who shopped in our somewhat better dress shop on a regular basis. That lady was the wife of one of the leading attorneys in town. They lived in one of the historic old mansions and his offices were in another historic old mansion. Hmmm . . . quite a step ahead from my "Uncle" Russ having to carry a wrench and pretend to be a workman to come through our front door.

The second thing was also connected to the place I worked. The lady who cleaned our store was a member of an extended family that pretty much owned the majority of the cleaning contracts in the Montgomery area. Her husband was in charge of cleaning our sister store across the mall. The entire mall was cleaned by members of her family. They lived in bigger homes and drove better cars than the family that owned our shops and some others in the area. The lady who cleaned our store had a college degree in business and her children went to private school. But, her family had been in the maid and janitor business for generations, had connections all over town, and built it into a miniature empire.

Let's fast-forward again to the 1980s. I was again living in Alabama, this time while my husband went to Squadron Officers School. His group had two black officers. One was married to a black woman. The other was married to a white woman. This has relevance only in so far as what happened when we went to a very elite private dining experience in a very Southern Belle's home/business. What happened was . . . nothing!

Nothing except that we were all welcomed into the establishment. Plus, the lady even spoke to and visited with the black couple, as well as the bi-racial couple. This in a place that decades before had been a whites only establishment. Another big step from "Uncle" Russ and his white overall trick to walk in the front door, huh?

Let us now fast-forward through a few historic firsts. Colin Powell, first black Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman. Condaleezza Rice, first black female Secretary of State. Barack Obama, first black President of the United States of America. Gee, it seems to me that we most certainly have come a long way since 1963 and the historic civil rights march on Washington. There are black firsts far too numerous to list. In fact, most of us don't even look to landmark events that much anymore 'cause we just assume everyone can do anything they desire and perspire to attain.

I think we have very much become the land MLK,Jr dreamed of . . . except that the dinosaurs of the civil rights movement are holding up the bus and throwing white America under it at every chance. They are working overtime to keep racial hatred alive and well in the 21st century. Hardly the goal of Dr. King who was known to be a pacifist, integrator, and uniter. A man who wanted ALL people to be free and equal. A man who wanted to end the false notion of separate, but equal.

But, too many of those who profess to follow in his footsteps are working to segregate America by making it a land of black, white, brown, yellow, or red. A land where people are judged by the color of their skin. A land where the content of character seems to always be less important than that all important skin-tone. Is this what MLK would have wanted? I think not! I think he would be ashamed that his name was being used in vain when attached to such racially-charged diatribes as went on yesterday and pretty much every day in some form or another.

We will none of us be "Free at last, free at last" until the last racist, of whatever color, learns to move beyond skin color and look to judge by character. We should do as Dr. King said and judge those race-baiters by the content of their character. I think we will find that most of them come up pretty darn short!

© Suzann C. Darnall, AUGUST 2013

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