Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My MLK Day

As a native Hoosier, I have never been to the MLK Memorial Park even though I used to live fairly close to it. This is the park where Robert F Kennedy broke the news to a largely African-American crowd that Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated. The full speech is published on one of the nearby memorial markers. An additional marker marks the exact place where the speech occurred (closer to the park's southern edge).

I was able to spend the day with my dog, walking around Crown Hill, and saying goodbye to an old growth forest that will be chopped down by the federal government. I also went to the MLK Memorial Park, hoping to see the memorial for myself. I walked around the neighborhood and it was a mix of new apartments, homes being built, homes being fixed up, and some homes that probably haven't changed much since RFK was here.

But as I stood there at the memorial, I only saw myself and three other white folks around. As I thought about why that is, I started to reflect on my life over the past few years.

Three years ago, I worked in retail pharmacy on the retail end. If you took the staff of both the retail end and the pharmacy end together, the entire staff of the store I was in was at least 2/3rd minority, and more than half were women. At that employer, I wasn't a full time employee, so I didn't get paid holidays or paid time off at all. And any request to take a holiday or a weekend off met with a lot of resistance. Now, I have a job where I get weekends off, most bank holidays off, and I have an incredibly generous amount of PTO. And I wonder if I've benefited from a system where citizens who are minorities often don't have the same opportunities.

Maybe they're at a dead end job that works them to the bone, that doesn't care that everyone else has the day off. And because they have that dead end job, it makes it hard (if not impossible) to take time to go find a better one. And you can't just take time off, because you need the money.

Maybe they're using the day off to catch up on school work, something that I (a two time college drop out) probably should've done more of.

There's a line in MLK's "Dream" speech where he talks about how 1963 is the starting point and that the movement for civil rights will eventually lead to "an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality". MLK's message in his "Dream" speech and his many speeches and sermons is that there are legitmate issues that need to be addressed but that we will make it through. And today, as I stood there with three other white people at a MLK memorial on MLD Day, I wonder if we are in that "autumn", or if we're still stuck back a few seasons and waiting to get to autumn.

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