Unless one has been meditating in a cave in the Himalayas for the past sixty years - or is a senior tech support person at Apple - or is coming of age in the current American school system where only 20% of high school students know what Lincoln stood for - MOST of us know of the past horrors of racism in the American South, which rivaled South African apartheid. (One must know a smidge about world history to understand this last reference.)
Images of police dogs and their handlers attacking civil rights marchers have been abundantly aired since the activism of the 1960s. But there is nothing like an in depth, personal account of that era to make one's heart hurt, literally.
Last night, I was trying to navigate my TV remote to select a comedy on Netflix. As usual, it disobeyed my commands, leaving only one easy option to select: a documentary about a person of color in Greensville, Mississippi back in 1952. Technological ineptitude accepted; a black and white image rolled onto my screen that was emphatically not comedic.
The bottom line synopsis: a kind, hardworking, relatively successful black man had made a statement about the pain of being regarded as a "n_ _ _ _ _" in Greensville, on camera, for an NBC crew that was doing a special about racism in the South. When it aired in 1954, the people of Greensville saw his statement. Consequently, this man of color had his grocery store fire-bombed, he was badly beaten and eventually murdered.
Cut to 2012. The son of the man who made the NBC special interviews his father and the three daughters left fatherless when their daddy was sacrificed by white racist rage. Now in a slightly more tolerant era, the grown daughters are educated and have realized the dreams of their father. But the shrapnel left by their experience of persecution lies everywhere, littering the social-emotional-psychic landscape.
This documentary drives home a point that is as painful as a stake in the heart. Every human being wants love, respect, opportunity and dignity. Those who view "the other" as less than fully human are truly ignorant and this blindness causes suffering of generational proportions.
Whether one lives in a hovel or a mansion, is illiterate or professorial, in rags or in haute couture - we are all the same.
One day may the essential sameness of the human being be celebrated.
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