Monday, January 18, 2010

the gray area

I was going to do the free museums and history thing today but everyone seemed to be working so I've decided to try and restore order to the vortex that is my bedroom closet, dig through some of my old CDs that I don't listen to much anymore, and think through a lot of things.

I went up to Tri-C for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration and concert to watch my roommate play in the philharmonic. They did Duke Ellington and of course it was wonderful. They had an awards ceremony for some scholarship winners and an Indian dance troupe did a performance about the power of nonviolence, MLK, and Gandhi.

I guess when you're deceased, you have no real control about the interpretation of your words, but I found myself analyzing the way that each person that spoke or each thing I heard on the radio imposed their own belief and interpretation upon Dr. King's words.

The dance troupe framed it in terms of Hinduism, the African People's Party guy on the radio made everything all about Africa the continent and how this was about including all religions as the same truth, even though we just heard King quoting Scripture and talking about, well, Jesus. The more conservative people talk about how he wouldn't have liked things like affirmative action and at this point I'm just going to borrow my roommate's copy of his writings and just read the words for myself because that's the only way you really know what's going and then I guess I can frame it in terms of my experience as a suburban white girl and inevitably join the crowd of those who co-opt others' words for their own means.

And not that anyone wants to be a downer, but considering that we're talking about civil rights and a continued striving for equality, it's hard for me to listen to this talk about the great education you get in the Cleveland schools when only a third of the students graduate, when I've driven past blocks and blocks of projects to get there, and I see how much everyone around me is struggling, and how much I took for granted in the sense that I've had so much handed to me all my life even if my background isn't all high class.

I've taken it for granted that my neighborhood was relatively safe, that my dad made a living wage, that the schools I went to were adequate, and even though I wouldn't've been able to afford to go to college if it wasn't for some darn good ACT scores and good grades and a year of Tri-C in high school, I had that opportunity. I complain a lot but I really have nothing to complain about.

I know things are better than they were. I'm thankful that I grew up in a family that didn't judge people by external factors but by what their character was made of. I'm thankful that I'm surrounded by amazing people from all walks of life, and that those I love took the time to get to know me instead of writing me off.

But I still hear things and see things that depress the hell out of me. I still see so much division and distrust and misunderstanding, some of it willful and some of it not...

I guess I don't have any real answers for this. Sometimes the fallout of the past seems to leave lingering effects on the present. Faulkner's quote "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past" has been lingering with me and I wish I felt a little more hopeful than I do...

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