NPR logo Open Mic: It's MLK Day. Where's Your Head?

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Open Mic: It's MLK Day. Where's Your Head?

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These days when I wrestle with race, I often think back to the fewer than 50 black kids — in a student body of 1,200 — at my college. And I think, man, I gave almost no thought at all to what that might have been like for them. It wasn't that I meant anyone harm; I just never considered the thousand little ways my being white may have made my experience that much easier. Now I can see that my whole known world depended on that one thing.

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I downloaded a full recording of his 'I Have a Dream' speech from the March on Washington and I try to listen to it at least once a year, if not more. It gives me chills everytime. And hope.

Sent by Summer | 1:28 PM | 1-21-2008

same here for Summer, in new england where it's so puritan it's hard to see, but it lives on in our minds because of the terrible media portrayal, ....i remember in college in boston i bumped into an african american girl and she looked at me as if i'd really done it on purpose...i'm just really clutsy...little do most people know that the true leaders in this country are all hippy children...i was never that way and will never be that way either! kudos...:)

Sent by Emily | 1:30 AM | 1-22-2008

yesterday i had to go to school for a workshop on mlk day but the kids were off...they had us stand for the pledge before starting the program and not only was there no mention of king but it was not even acknowledged in the program...and needless to say there was not one person of color in that auditorium...how dare they be so ignoring of our history and especially now that we have a fine black man and fine woman as viable presidential candidates...which "WE'VE" been hoping for....i'm outraged but not surprised.

Sent by jan | 9:42 AM | 1-22-2008

Yesterday, MLK Day, I had the most surreal experience. I am a white, male, early-middle-aged social worker. I work a comfortable desk job in downtown Atlanta, GA - far removed from the gritty heart of my profession. After work, I was sitting at the bus-stop in the park across from my building, waiting for the express bus to take me back to the suburbs. A hispanic man approached me, asking for money. He explained in a vaguely New Orleans/vaguely caribbean accent that he and his family had lost their home and had been put up in an ATL hotel room by FEMA. FEMA payments had stopped & they lost the deed to their house so he was just trying to scrape together $165 to stay in the hotel. I offered him all I had - the $0.65 I had in my pocket. He said, "Nah, that won't help me, man" and walked away. Immediately, a black police officer approached me, told me I couldn't pan-handle in the park, offered to "get me some help" if I needed it and asked me to stop bothering the patrons. His manner was extremely kind and gentle. I wasn't sure if he was being serious. I was wearing office-casual attire with my briefcase and lunch bag next to me and, though I was bundled up in a winter coat, this same officer has helped me in the past when my bus was late, etc. I thanked him for his offer of help but said I really just wanted to get on the bus. My co-worker nearby (waiting for her bus) leaned over and asked, "He's kidding, right?" I never got the chance to ask him, as my bus arrived at that moment. Yet, that got me thinking. If the situation were reversed (if I were black and the officer were white), now or in the days of MLK, might things have turned out differently? Might I have been harrassed or even arrested for pan-handling when it was I who had been pan-handled? 40 years ago, I guess I would not have been allowed to wait at the same bus stop. That's no problem now but what if . . .? I think I'll thank that officer the next time I see him for his MLK-day gift.

Sent by Eric L. | 11:38 AM | 1-22-2008