John F Waterman
The works of John F Waterman

Blog 01.15.21 January 16, 2021

Hello again, friends.

It’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. He would have been 92 years old today, a venerable but not impossible age for humans of his generation. Someone I was close to was also born in 1929, though in June; my step-father. I knew him from 1980, when he married my Mom, until his passing in 1992. We all knew him as ‘Scott’. He was Black, and he grew up in the South; two other things he shared with Dr. King.

While reading Dr. King’s bio on Wikipedia today, I remarked to myself that he and my step-father were born in the same year, a year we generally note- if at all- as the beginning of the Great Depression. They shared the experience of being Black males growing up in the South during that time in our history. I stopped to wonder what they each might have thought, if alive today, over how things have changed for Black Americans during the intervening ten decades. Or, more importantly, the things that have NOT changed.

It’s merely a thought exercise for me, as a white man. I do not purport to have anything at all to comment on the Black experience here in America save as an outsider to it. My voice is not their voice, my life was in no way shape or form like that of Dr. King’s or my step-father’s.

It’s important, though, that we all take a moment to think about ‘it’. Race relations in the United States is the ‘elephant in the room’, and has been for four centuries. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives as a direct result of ‘it’, some on battlefields and some in vicious hatred-driven atrocities all across the nation. Millions more people have lived lives limited to some degree or another by how our society treats those it deems ‘second-class’; naturally not limited just to those who are Black, but those of other skin colors, other genders, other ethnic groups, other sexualities.

There is a lot to unpack, there. There is no one factor that encompasses why things are the way they are today; no ‘prime cause’, no single matter we can point at and say ‘Well, THERE’S the problem.’ Indeed there is no single fix, no ‘silver bullet’, no magic program that will resolve the issue. I have my opinions but I certainly don’t have any solutions.

What I can offer is a call to you all to think about ‘it’, on this day, the birthday of a towering figure in race relations, a man with his foibles and flaws like we all possess, yet also possessed of a single good and gracious message that he preached tirelessly until he was taken away from us in 1968. Let’s all of us think about it, and talk about it, and listen to one another, and look around us, and roll the inequities and issues around in our heads as we remember the words of Dr. King; ‘I have a dream . . .’

And keep thinking and listening and looking and talking, every day, in every forum, in every place in our lives, out of every window and on every street, to forge ahead for that dream until we all find a way to do better for every person in this nation and on this planet. I am neither a ‘conservative’ nor a ‘liberal’, but a mere human being; and I can see that our society is not where it could be. Nor is it where it SHOULD be.

Friends, there are 320 MILLION of us here in this nation, all endowed with our individual gifts and the ability to rise above our own foibles and the collective imperfections of our culture. From the mansions, from the corporate board rooms, from the halls of Academe, from the assemblies of our elected representatives, from our courtrooms, from the housing Projects, from the prisons, from the living rooms and the barracks Dayrooms and the backyard barbecues, we can together all find a way to BE better, DO better, and THINK better. No one of us can solve this, but ALL of us can. We MUST.

Keep striving, friends.

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