Our holiday for Martin Luther King has always marked the reading of the “I Have a Dream” speech in my home. My children have gathered around our kitchen table since they were small to listen as I read the immortal words of Martin Luther King Jr. from William Bennett’s “The Book of Virtues”. It always sparks interesting conversations about slavery and segregation, Jim Crow laws, civil rights and racism. My purpose is to bring into focus that our freedom here in America comes with a history: 250 years of slavery, that’s a long time, 100 years of “Jim Crow” and Jim Crow Laws and in our present day the cultural divide between white Americans and black Americans. Black and white Americans alike should invest a little time researching some of the laws that black people had to deal with right up until 1961 and beyond, like these:
Textbooks: Books shall not be interchangeable between the white and colored schools, but shall continue to be used by the race first using them. North Carolina
Libraries: The state librarian is directed to fit up and maintain a separate place for the use of the colored people who may come to the library for the purpose of reading books or periodicals. North Carolina
Militia: The white and colored militia shall be separately enrolled, and shall never be compelled to serve in the same organization.No organization of colored troops shall be permitted where white troops are available, and while white permitted to be organized, colored troops shall be under the command of white officers. North Carolina
Transportation: The…Utilities Commission…is empowered and directed to require the establishment of separate waiting rooms at all stations for the white and colored races.
Or These From Alabama:
Restaurants: It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment. Alabama
Pool and Billiard Rooms: It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other at any game of pool or billiards. Alabama
Toilet Facilities, Male: Every employer of white or negro males shall provide for such white or negro males reasonably accessible and separate toilet facilities.
Mental Hospitals: The Board of Control shall see that proper and distinct apartments are arranged for said patients, so that in no case shall Negroes and white persons be together. Georgia
Intermarriage: It shall be unlawful for a white person to marry anyone except a white person. Any marriage in violation of this section shall be void. Georgia
Barbers: No colored barber shall serve as a barber [to] white women or girls. Georgia
Burial: The officer in charge shall not bury, or allow to be buried, any colored persons upon ground set apart or used for the burial of white persons.
In my Bail Bond Practice I find myself sitting with a young black male filling out paperwork and collecting information about his family, his work or school or lack thereof and there it is, staring at me eye to eye, the outcome and offspring of 350 years of racial injustice. Sometimes I just want to say “I’m sorry”. Sorry for the hand humanity has dealt you, sorry for the cycle of poverty and psychological poverty that keeps spinning through your generations and I am also a little surprised at how little you know about your own predicament. How could you commit a crime that could once again rob you of your freedom in America, tattoo you with an inmate number and a jail sentence in the worlds most populated prisons and further throw your people, past and future, down the drain of social slavery. Wake up Black People! You have a responsibility to your Great Grandmothers and Great Grandfathers to lift yourself up, not letting their struggle go to waste. Educate yourselves and be free so you can be there for your children to teach them about the menace of racism and injustice, be there at the kitchen table to read and reread the “I have a Dream Speech”. Martin Luther King Jr. deserves it! It is mandatory!
Red, Yellow, Black or White! We are precious in HIS sight!