August 10, 2010
(In between events, Arisha wrote this reflection piece today on her interaction with Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., in Atlanta at yet another of one of NOM’s poorly attended rallies. And then, just a few hours ago, Keith Olbermann featured Alveda King on his “Worst Person In the World” segment. Congrats to the NOM Tour Tracker community for helping amplify what Alveda said, and Arisha’s interview with her, to a larger audience. You are amazing! — Eden James)
By Arisha Michelle Hatch
I don’t make illegal U-turns.
Ask Phyllis or Anthony.
On a GPS-less road trip across the United States there are plenty of U-turns to be made. But I’ll turn down a dark ally, drive through a shopping center parking lot, or wander an additional 5 miles to the next light to make a legal U-turn.
Anthony, on the other hand, makes U-turns whenever he wants – boldly, without questioning.
When asked why I didn’t make the quicker turn, I’ll say something half-joking like “a black girl in Iowa can’t get away with that.”
Everyone laughs. I laugh too. I learned long ago that there’s no point in crying over it.
Let me start by saying that I completely believe and get it when Alveda King says that “my protection has never been the courts, my protector is the Lord. The courts cannot protect me.”
I was 11 and living 45 minutes outside of Los Angeles when Rodney King was beaten; Oscar Grant was killed at a BART station I passed by everyday in Oakland on my way to work. I vividly remember watching Mark Furhman “plead the fifth.” I hear the stories of my little brother and his other friends of various colors who are pulled over by police officers 3-4 a month in California. I’d be lying if I said that despite my integrated, post-racial upbringing, that I don’t have issues with authority figures in this country. All that said, I never grew up in a segregated world – didn’t go to segregated schools like my mother and grandfathers did; I’ve voted in the state of California more times than Meg Whitman has over the last decade; I had the privilege to talk to my father – almost in tears – just minutes after Barack Obama was elected President; I am, in many ways, the American Dream.
Nonetheless, all of these juxtaposing experiences create an inner conflict between the America I’ve always been taught about- a nation destined for tolerance- and that other America that I’ve also been warned about- the lineage of inequality.
That’s what it is to be a black American growing up today – in a state of confusion over the integrated, Obama-electing country that we see and the stories of oppression that remain a part of us.
I’m not saying that I agree with her, but I understand Alveda King (or those of you who missed my discussion with her in Atlanta, the video is below). Because for all the judges and elected officials who have stood up for righteousness, for all of the allies that have stood with you, there are 4 or 5 others whose actions maintained the existing state of oppression.
How can the daughter of a slain activist, the niece of an assassinated leader ever really trust a system like this? That’s why Brown vs. The Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, and the election of a black President did not resonate for Alveda. To Alevda and many other black Americans, those things, even if taken together, cannot repair the integrity of a system that would allow injustice to persist for so long. The few brave jurists who stood against the will of the American people in favor of racial equality may seem like petty afterthoughts to a person like Dr. Alveda. She grew up in a country whose citizens found it appropriate at one time to bomb her childhood home while she was in bed.
How does anybody truly recover from that?
I can tell you this much, you can elect 10 Barack Obamas and it will not repair that deep sense of mistrust or fill the voids created by slavery – of families lost, language lost, home and liberty lost; nor will it heal the wounds that allowed a system of segregation to persist – the inferiority complexes that have been handed-down for generations.
Although Brian Brown describes it as a “meltdown,” I cried because that mistrust of America saddens me; it was the same mistrust that I heard in my father’s voice when he said that he couldn’t believe that “Americans would ever vote to elect a black President.” I cried because that thought-pattern alone, that sense of hopelessness expressed, the lack of agency, that feeling that we cannot expect our government to protect our rights, that people will never change, is so sad to me, so limiting; it is oppression re-manifested.
How did my father continue to be ambitious? How did he convince himself that if he worked hard he would be recognized, if his entire life he’s been shown the contrary?
Judge Walker’s ruling cannot overturn the years and years of discrimination that LGBT people have faced and will continue to face once marriage is legalized; it cannot overturn that sense of mistrust; that subtle feeling of inferiority that has been ingrained in you throughout your life will never be completely gone. You learn to live with it – hopefully – forget it, at times, figure out ways to overcome it, argue with yourself until it sounds irrational.
Nonetheless it remains, or at least for me, it does.
I may not know much, but I know that.
If you’re hoping that the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, or decisions like the one Judge Walker handed down will heal old wounds, you should pinch yourself. After equality comes, there’s plenty of healing left to do; Dr. Alveda King is proof of that.
However, part of that healing process requires acknowledging those who stood up for you when everything in their world was telling them to do the contrary. Part of that process is recognizing that although overwhelming at times that the opposition to equality was not monolithic. I often said during the Obama campaign that I wished more black Americans had the opportunity to see how many white people fought to get that man elected; his election – his movement – was a part of that healing process for me.
These issues of equality- on both sexual orientation and race- are bound together. They’re not going away anytime soon. Although our histories are not the same, there’s an intersection that we have to acknowledge and deal with no matter how much Brian Brown attempts to protest to the contrary.
UPDATE BY EDEN (7:43 p.m. PST): Hey everyone — someone noted that Alveda King was featured on Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person In The World” segment.
We are maxed on capacity right now. So I have a quick request for the Tracker community: If you see it on YouTube, please let us know and we’ll embed it here. Otherwise, we have to go with MSNBC’s video, which we can’t embed due to WordPress issues.
Here is Keith’s segment on Alveda King, via MSNBC:
UPDATE BY EDEN (9:43 p.m. PST): And the winner is… “Tony Douglass in CA”!
Thanks so much, Tony, for taking the time to find the YouTube embed and share it with everyone. It’s another people-powered #Win for the NOM Tour Tracker community.