It's MLK weekend and it's not lost on any one of us exactly who is in the White House and how his administration feels about minorities (and women). His attacks on John Lewis are just the icing on cake. We've entered an era where nothing is sacred and all are suspect.
The question that keeps rolling through my mind is "how did we get here?" Obama was a great president who saved our auto industry, the economy - reformed our health care system - didn't get caught in any sexual or political scandal. Hillary won the popular vote. Most Americans are moderates. What is the underlying cancer eating this country alive?
Slavery lasted for about 250 years. This was followed by 100 years of "separate but equal" and segregation. Legally, we've only had "equality" for just over 50 years. The Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts of 1964 outlawed discrimination but that didn't change much and people continued to hate and fear.
50 years is one generation. It takes 2-3 generations for old ways to die and new ways to begin. And I think that most white Americans live in a state of denial. We don't want to acknowledge the sins of our fathers because that means that the family we love did horrible things, commited crimes that are unspeakable.
I was always told that my family were Quakers who were part of the underground railroad smugglng people of color out of the South and up to the North. I felt no shame or guilt about slavery - my parents fought for opening housing in the 60's. Bad things happened in the South. Our family hailed from the North.
Two years ago my mom and I went out to Shelter Island to look up some family history. We toured my great great great grandfathers house and even saw his grave. He imported sugar and rum from his plantations in the Caribbean to Shelter Island, NY. He was a slave owner. At best, he owned human beings, worked them until their deaths, and denied them basic freedoms. At worst, he was a rapist, torturer and murderer. Those are the facts.
There isn't a white American who doesn't have some connection to slavery just like me. I believe that, as a nation, we must acknowledge our past wrongs and apologize so we can move forward. Repression never works. It only frustrates and perverts.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the wrongs my family committed in the name of industry and privilege. There is no justification. I ask forgiveness.
I know this all seems too simplistic but I know what an apology from this patriarchal system would mean to me. When your suffering is acknowledged, you can let go of the pain.
All I can do now is focus on the next generation. I can't change who is in the White House but I change how I raise my son. We're raising Grayson to love and create....to believe in equality...to accept his past and make his future.