I was just reminded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. why I never got into politics. When I was young and up through high school I had a huge boner for politics. I figured that’s how you make amazing change happen, a chance to use the power of your life for the greater good of mankind, and I also happened to be a highly opinionative, extremely loquacious smart ass who was really good at using big words accurately. But as it turns out my lexicon would end there. Politics is not for faint of heart, for people who can’t remember names, thin skinned idealists or for most decent people without a god complex and whom enjoy privacy. I was lucky for I had a choice to not dive into political turmoil, some don’t. For some the adversity is so great and the call to radical change spurs the heart so profoundly that they are given no choice but to be called to action. In the 4th grade I was convinced that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had rid the world of racism. It was as if I had seen Bambi and Old Yeller without the punch line of death by realism played out, instead fast forwarded back to happily ever after. With Vallejo, CA being an old naval town and a socio-economic trap hodge-podge of the San Francisco Bay Area I had a plethora of friends from many different backgrounds. Diversity is an interesting pot to melt in and minority ratios can turn tables in a snap.
I looked forward to February every year, not only is it my birthday month, but we always celebrate Black History month in school. I got to make Kente cloths, sing happy birthday with Stevie Wonder to MLK Jr. and watch “Roots” a few years in a row. I was proud to be an American, I loved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and I was proud to live in a time without Jim Crow laws, lynching, or confederates . But as it turns out, the damage was already done and still lurked all over the nation. Dr. King did not rid our great country of racism, it was broken in more ways than I even know to this day. In junior high school after watching another great civil rights leader as played by Denzel Washionton, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.” I felt the same, I even personalized it in class one day in class, it got weird and I was desperately trying to prove that I too was a product of slavery, as my grandma’s family came over the second ship after the Mayflower as indentured servants, and I also confused many when I would say I was related to Martin Luther, explaining Protestant Reformation makes for an interesting lunch at the cafeteria. I even started a debate in sixth, ninth, and twelfth grade when I would refuse to bubble in “white” for my “nationality” as my identifier for California state standardized b.s. testing. In senior year it cracked all kinds of racism open that I wasn’t prepared for. One girl told me that if I were to come to her house I wouldn’t even be allowed on the porch, especially if her grandma were home, she told me she had no white friends and wasn’t gonna start now. Turns out once that innocent child like utopian dust settled, I would have to spend years of my life defending the color of my skin to prove I wasn’t a white devil, slave owning, Nazi, cause it turns out it will take a few dozen or so more generations for peoples to stop projecting and repeating history. I grew up never hearing any member of my family ever use any sort of derogatory or racist terms towards another human being. I can not know the perspective of many peoples own personal struggles, I can only gain knowledge through histories and know certain my own.
The more things fade the more things stay the same, it may just take a different form. Like a viral infection that doesn’t really go away, it just finds a good place to lie low in the shadows for abuse to the system to feed it back to life and await the day till it’s consumed all it can. Growing up a visual minority in all my classes in school I was so very confused by peoples various taste in haterade toward me, but I tried not to take it personally cause I knew even then at such an impressionable age, that this was many generations of someone else’s pain, it wasn’t something I should take to heart or ever replicate that kind of infection. All you know is what you know, and that is why I thrive when I strive to get to the root of the matter. I spent many sleepless nights time traveling, seeing things from other’s perspectives and having an innate common sense that mirrored many great leaders I learned about in school.
Last year when some people in my life suggested I run for city office, I laughed. History is not kind to rational radical people like me. I told some close friends of mine that I was being nudged to get kicked in the head by city government and one friend remarked, “shiiiit, if you got into politics someday you’d so get assassinated.” Dr. King reminded me of that, as does Medger Evers, Harvey Milk, all the dead Kennedys. When you speak the truth and have the voice to make change they will try and get you good and silent. History is so easily corruptible these day, and that has always terrified me. I am called to action to lead by example with my own life just by living it and I see that as a triumph and luxury I am grateful to have up to this point in my life. I make it my job to make sure my son knows not only the difference between right and wrong, but also to have empathy for his fellow human beings. If equality is to ever truly exist it needs to be nurtured and cared for, just as its history must be clearly played, even the unsavory bits are not to be fast forwarded. Can’t we all just get along?