March 7, 2015, Banning- In July, 2011, I happened by Selma, AL, and spent a day walking around the city, crossing the Edmund L. Pettis Bridge, looking over and seeing the Alabama River, which, miraculously, did not claim any lives on March 7, 1965, though humans took the lives of other humans, over a period of three weeks. I spoke with a ranger at the Selma Civil Rights National Historical Site, who noted that race relations were a tad better now than they were during the immediate aftermath of the turmoil. Paying my respects at the Viola Liuzzo Memorial, near Hayneville, I pondered that people change their behaviour at the behest of outside influences, such as the government, but not until their hearts change, are the objects of their disdain even remotely safe.
We have made some progress, in getting along, over the years. There are more people of colour in my hometown of Saugus, MA, than when I was growing up. I was raised not to think disparagingly of others, based on race, much less to speak so. Quite frankly, I felt as shocked and disappointed when Malcolm X (who my father thought was making good changes in his life) and Martin Luther King, Jr. were executed. Yes, both, in my mind, were acts of officially-sanctioned murder- as the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy probably were, also.
People in Prescott, my current home, are outwardly accepting of others, regardless of race. Yet, I have it on good authority (from a racist-in-recovery, no less), that many in the town are still emotionally stuck in the 1950’s and ’60’s, if not in the Jim Crow Era.
To say that we are all racist, to some degree is an overstatement- and a dodge. Everyone does need to work on raising their consciousness level, but that applies across the board, not just with respect to how we deal with those of other ethnicities and pigmentation.
I am spending tonight in Banning, a city in western Riverside County, CA. Banning had serious trouble during both Los Angeles riots, though it seems to have quieted quite alot, in the few times I have been here since 1992. Quiet,though, does not necessarily mean peace.
I would be overjoyed to see people interact positively with each other, regardless of background, on a regular basis. I do see more of that with Millennials and Post- Millennials, and hope and pray that this will remain a lifelong habit for those generations- and that the rest of us remember the idealism of our own youth, and ponder just what it is that has deflected that idealism. We’re not done growing, yet.