Monthly Archives: January 2009

‘We need white people to be as outraged about racism as people of color are.’

A blog post of mine from January 2009…

Today we celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and with the inauguration of the first black US President tomorrow, I’ve been thinking a lot of how far we have come…and how far we still have to go.
I love the words of Dr. King and his passion for what he knew to be true.  One of my favorite quotes from his is “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

I just recently came across an article from a few years ago by Patricia Digh, right after the death of Rosa Parks.  She was talking about an email she had received, saying that what we needed was another Rosa Parks or another Martin Luther King, Jr.
Her response to the email was that what we actually need are “more white people who are willing to be civil rights heroes.  We need white people to be as outraged about racism as people of color are.  We need white people to realize that racism is not a black issue–it’s a white issue.  We need white people to refuse to participate in a system that privileges them over fellow human beings.  We need white people to actively, visibly, and publicly examine their own role in perpetuating racism in subtle and unconscious ways, acknowledge their own part in the problem, verbalize the unearned privileges that accrue to them simply because of their skin color, and demand those same privileges for people of color.
“Fighting racism isn’t only the job of people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.  The next generation of civil rights activists in this nation must be white people who realize that winning this fight will be the result of individual, daily actions on their part, not grand pronouncements and history month celebrations.
“As long as we wait for national heroes to emerge, nothing will change…..Unless we wake up every morning determined to eliminate racism even when that work is difficult, nothing will change.
“The police officer who fingerprinted Rosa Parks after that fateful bus ride…..(was) asked to comment on Parks’ death….(he) simply said that he had no problem with black people and that he was just doing his job.  As long as we ‘just do our jobs,’ racism will prevail.”
Dr. King’s, “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered on Aug. 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.  Here is a portion of that speech, which I feel is appropriate still today:
“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’
“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.
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.'”
My kids had school today, as a snow make-up day, which really gets me going.  Either have school on the holiday, or don’t.  But, trying to be an optimist, I hoped that the school and teachers could use at least a small portion of their day to discuss Dr. King or Rosa Parks or anything at all about the Civil Rights Movement.  But when they got home from school and I asked, they both said no. UGH!!!  I was happy that I had the foresight to read to them my favorite book this morning, one I highly recommend to anyone with children.  It’s called “Freedom on the Menu” and it’s the true story of the Greensboro Sit-ins, told from a little girl’s perspective.  We had the opportunity to visit the Woolworth’s in Greensboro when we were in North Carolina a few years ago, after we had first read the book.  Check it out.
So… let us remember, like Patricia Digh said, “Rosa Parks is dead. The next generation of civil rights heroes must be white people.”
Let’s no longer be silent about the things that really matter.

Accepting the life that is waiting for us

“That they might have joy” column by Jacki  Wood

As a little girl, I had a lot of dreams and plans.

I dreamed of having a home with my husband and children nestled in the mountains of Colorado, where I could look out my window and be inspired by the view to write great things.

I also wanted to one day play basketball at Stanford and become the first white woman Harlem Globetrotter. I dreamed of being a great teacher and coach. I planned to write a book, start my own sports camp for underprivileged kids and own a beach house in Chile.

Some of these still might be in my future. But some, like being a Globetrotter, most likely won’t happen.

And that’s okay.

In recent years, I’ve been trying to move away from following some of these plans or things that I thought I wanted and move more toward following my bliss, a phrase coined by American writer and lecturer, Joseph Campbell.

“We must let go of the life we have planned,” he said, “so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

He said it’s not just a matter of doing what you like or doing as you’re told to do. But it’s determining what you are truly passionate about and trying to give yourself wholly to it.

I was reminded of this philosophy when I attended a small ceremony on January 13 at the library. Mayor Chad Jackson proclaimed the day as “Diane Houston Day” in honor of her recent retirement.

As Diane spoke, I realized she epitomized following your bliss.

Looking back, she said she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. But when she first walked into the library, she knew it was the place she was meant to be.

Thirty years ago when Diane took over, I was three years old and attending my first Story Hour there.

A flood of library memories came rushing back to me…dressing up for Halloween, eating homemade cookies, walking carefully down those steep steps to the scary old basement, falling in love with Paddington Bear and numerous other storybook characters, checking out books each week.

There was always a calm, quietness to Diane as she would read and share her love of books with us. And there still is.

For over 30 years, her passion for books and people have served this community well, and she will be missed.

She may have had other plans and dreams growing up, but she accepted the one waiting for her. And I’m grateful she did.

“Follow your bliss,” Campbell said. “Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it.”