Thank you, Mrs. King
For as long as I can recall, at every place I've worked, I've written a quote for the day on a whiteboard. Even if I was the only one who ever bothered to read it, at least I could count on starting every morning with something inspiring, quirky, bitchy, or just plain smart-assed.
Often my quotes are relevant to my situation at work, current affairs, or commemorating a specific date.
Today's quote is "Hatred is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated," which was said by the late Coretta Scott King. And underneath today's quote I wrote "Thank you, Mrs. King."
While leaving my office to go get some water, a random person asked what I was thanking Mrs. King for. It rather took me aback. I replied that I was thanking her for spending her life as a champion of civil rights. That she'd never, even in the past few years, given up being an activist for equal rights for all.
And this guy asked, "is there still a fight for civil rights?"
Wow. What a question. I guess being a straight white guy in the rarified liberal climate of Northern California probably makes it seem like there's no longer any fight left, but I had to say that yes, there is still a fight.
That was my short answer. What I wanted to say was that until my gay friends can marry, then civil rights is still an issue. Until groups like the Aryan Brotherhood and the Klan stop recruiting people to hate others, then yes, civil rights is still an issue.
If you look at civil rights as the "rights" to live in a "civilized" society, then the battle is far from over. We may not have apartheid as an institution, but there is still a negative division between the majority of African Americans and the majority of European Americans. We may have the separation of church and state, but we have politicians who want to push a Christian agenda onto everyone through the teaching of so-called "Intelligent Design." Homosexuality may not be illegal, but it is also not exactly legal either. Especially when so-called "Christians" preach the gospel according to Saint Everyone is Wrong But Me and announce, with no logic whatsoever, that gay marriage threatens the sanctity of straight marriage. We may have freedom of speech on paper, but disagreeing with the current administration gets you labeled as a traitor. We may preach that America is the land of the free, and the great melting-pot, but those with Arabic-sounding names have come under criticism and hostility for nothing more than their ethnicity and their faith.
Dr. and Mrs. King did so much for the United States, and for the world as a whole. But the fight is far from over. If we've learned nothing from their commitment to equality, let us at least take away the message that the fight will be long and hard. In a world of cardboard heroes whose only claim to fame is being famous, it's good to be reminded of what real heroes and heroines are like. I can never claim to have the wisdom, the courage, or the strength of the Kings...but I can honestly say that I desire to be worthy of the legacy they gave to us all.