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Thankful For Martin Luther King, Jr

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

~ MLK, Jr

Amen! And in answer for all those lost souls that asked why African Americans have rioted in cases like what happened to Freddie Gray, Keith Lamont Scott, George Floyd, and so many others....

“A riot is the language of the unheard.”

~ MLK, Jr

The last five plus years have been transformative for me. I have truly awoken. All to see that I have only begun my journey. And it is a journey I am proud to be on. A journey of seeing the world, truly seeing it, in all its beautiful colors and shapes and types. I am also so thankful that I have always been open to this journey.

Way back when I was about fourteen and becoming a big Star Trek fan, one of the first things is saw was that the basis of Vulcan philosophy was IDIC, which was an acronym for Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, celebrating the vast array of variables in the universe. Now if a television show talked about diversity in 1968, then being "woke" is nothing new. And this idea transformed 1974, fourteen-year-old Ben for sure.

The significance of what Martin Luther King Jr had to say will probably never go away. He was a brilliant beautiful, wonderful heroic man. He lived his life in a way that so many of us could only wish, that we could be as courageous. And this last few years with everything that has happened with Black Lives Matter, we only continue to see that sadly, the fight must go on.

Those who just do not understand the Black Lives Matter movement, and say that “all lives matter,” well hey, at the beginning of 2020, I said the same thing.

Then I saw that amazing photo with an African American child holding up a poster that said that Black Lives Matter…and that also said… “We never said that only black lives matter, we know all lives matter, we just need your help with #BlackLivesMatter,” for black lives are in danger.”

I shiver where I sit remembering that day, and every time I see that photo, the goosebumps hit me still. Something transformed inside of me that day. And I've not ever looked back.

I thought that I always had an understanding, as a gay man who has had prejudice hurdled at him all of his adult life, what black Americans were experiencing. But I began to realize that I can never ever hope of truly understanding.

I would never want to, but to save my life, I can hide being gay. A person of color does not have that choice. And it is up to all of us to explain to the ignorant that BLM doesn’t mean “only,” it is only saying that hey, black lives matter as well. And that black lives are in danger.

When over his life course, about one and every 1,000 black men can actually expect that they could be killed by the police, there is something really wrong going on. When idiots can say, “You don’t want to be shot? Don’t disobey the law!” and then not notice that in a riot in Washington DC where there were so few deaths, that the reason they were so few deaths was because the crowd was white, then the words of Martin Luther King Jr need to keep going on.

It came as quite a shock to me to realize that I had white privilege. I wasn’t sure that I believed in such a thing at first. I didn't even understand what it meant. I mean, it sounded outrageous. An excuse. But then came that sign with the little black girl, and the shock that ran through me, and echoed, shivered out, backward and forward throughout my whole life, reshaping it entirely.

How could I not see the white privilege I had, have? It’s so horrifyingly obvious. Even today when we have come so far.

Well, we haven’t come far enough.

For instance, yesterday I forgot it was Martin Luther King Jr Day until six o'clock in the evening. I'm ashamed. Noah even told me this morning before coffee. And saying I was pre-caffeinated is an excuse in the grossest manner. I wonder how many African Americans forgot about yesterday. I'm guess not many. Could they afford to?

"Representative John Conyers (a Democrat from Michigan) and Senator Edward Brooke (a Republican from Massachusetts) introduced a bill in Congress to make King's birthday a national holiday. The bill first came to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1979. However, it fell five votes short of the number needed for passage. Two of the main arguments mentioned by opponents were that a paid holiday for federal employees would be too expensive and that a holiday to honor a private citizen would be contrary to longstanding tradition (King had never held public office). Only two other figures have national holidays in the U.S. honoring them: George Washington and Christopher Columbus... ...Six million signatures were collected for a petition to Congress to pass the law..." which was "the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. history.... ...President Ronald Reagan originally opposed the holiday, citing cost concerns," but, "on November 2, 1983, Reagan signed a bill into law" which led to the creation the federal holiday honoring King. And then finally, the "holiday was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986." * Yet still there were states that did not observe the day and it wasn't until May of 2000 (!) that the final holdout, South Carolina, finally did so. Before that, "....employees could choose between celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day or one of three Confederate holidays."

Horror! My God!

All of this fills me with shame and horror and as I type these words, there are tears flowing down my face. Because despite all the excusesa paid holiday for federal employees would be too expensive, a holiday to honor a private citizen would be contrary to tradition, that Martin Luther King wasn't important enough, King's opposition to the Vietnam War, being accused of espousing Marxism, and that he had associations with communistsI know what was going on. And it shames me. Martin Luther King Jr was black.

What further shames me is that I have friendssome who may read this and being shaking their heads at mewho feel that all the opposition to Martin Luther King Day were and still are valid. So why am I still friends with them? Because they have been smart enough not to voice that opinion. And finally, because I don't have friends that aren't good loving people and I hope that my example might finally help "wake" them as well. When you have white privilege, you often can't see the forest for the trees. And it because I know there is a part of those friends who know the truth, and what comes with facing all of that is just too much for them. I have faith that they will. So I don't want to kick them to the curb.

"In times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers." There are walls that need to come down!

I couldn't. I had NO idea I had white privilege and didn't even know what people were talking about when I first heard about it. But then I began to see it.

I was standing at a corner one day with a black friend of mine, waiting for a green light, when a car pulled up to the red light, and the passenger (white) locked the car doors. This struck me as funny, I hardly look dangerous, and I laughingly commented on this to my neighbor. He wasn't laughing. He calmly said, "Ben, it wasn't you, it was me. And I've had that happen to me my entire life." I was astonished. My friend was in his late seventies, early eighties. He was bordering on frail. "What did they think you were going to do?" I asked. "Car jack them?" My friend only shrugged and that sent my brain to spiraling.

I noticed shortly after that when I went into a store with some friends, one black, that the employees began to follow me around. I was shocked. I knew what was going on. We were being followed around because one of us was black. I had been told this happened to black people and I'd scoffed. But now I was seeing it firsthand. My brain spiraled.

I suddenly remembered years and years before when I was a passenger in a car where a black friend of mine was driving. We were going through a very nice neighborhood, and we got pulled over. "What's wrong I asked." My black friend hushed me and unrolled her window for the officer who approached, and she was being overly nice to the rude man. I was getting pissed and asked the police man what we had done wrong. He turned to me with a snarl, and then quite suddenly changed. He smiled and was very polite to me, and minutes later urged us on our way. When I asked my friend what that was about, she only looked at me in astonishment. "You don't know?" she asked.

Today as I write these words, more tears. "A study of nearly 100 million traffic stops from around the country has concluded that, on average, black drivers are 20% more likely to get pulled over than white drivers." **

The words of Martin Luther King Jr need to keep going on and on and on and on!

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight...and all flesh shall see it together.”

The dream does live on.

It does.

As long as we act responsibly and make sure that dream lives on.

I believe we don’t have to be ugly to effect change for whatever our personal beliefs or ideals may be. Please remember Dr King’s way, and what this amazing man did, what the cause for which he courageously dedicated his whole life.

“Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love... Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.”

When I am yelled at, is nasty to me, or points out where I went wrong” when I post something on social media, I shut down and the iron gates in my mind slam shut. In fact, it’s what happens to most people. It is genetically engineered back to two million years ago. The fight or flight instinct is activated.

But when someone calmly tells me their points, I often change my mind.

“Anger begets anger.” It does.

"In times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers."

I’ve often thought, if a person is so completely against abortion (for instance), instead of hanging outside Planned Parenthood with huge ugly signs of aborted fetuses (or shooting doctors for goodness sake!), why not instead carry big signs of beautiful babies being held in someone’s arms, along with a caption about how happy the person in the photo is because they were able to adopt? Beauty and love change minds.

If you are personally invested in the whole kneeling vs hand over your heart issue at Football games, then vote with your dollars by buying, or not buying the companies that benefit. Don't buy from corporations that sponsor an attitude that you don’t like. Buy from those that do. And write letters.

I wrote a letter to Pepperidge Farms asking them why they put MSG in their stuffing mix. A lot of people today have bad reactions to MSG and more and more companies are choosing to discontinue its use. I actually got a reply saying my letter was a good one and they would investigate. The next year I discovered that their stuffing mix no longer contains MSG. Do I think that was my letter that did it? Probably not. But if I wrote a letter, and they changed their recipe, maybe other people did as well. Enough people that they discontinued its use. What does this have to do with the great man Martin Luther King, Jr?

There is almost always a peaceful and constructive way to make change in this world. Love always, finally, in the end, wins. And hopefully, a riot won’t need to be the language of the unheard.

This morning, I for one, re-pledge my life to doing just that.

And make this a part of my dream, that “...all flesh shall see it together.”

I never thought I would see same-sex marriage. We humans are learning.

Why not racial equality?

We are living in true insane times. Every day we see something else. Every day. All that is going on with Trump. The Republicans picking Mike Johnson (R-La.) as their Speaker of the House at the end of October 2023 and then, less than three months later, they are already turning against him. The rantings of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. They are on the verge of collapse...because love always wins.

We are living in "interesting times." The prejudiced "dinosaurs" are dying off.

Let’s make sure our children grow up knowing better, and that generations of children of color will only see this new world.

"In times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers"


BG “Ben” Thomas

** Researchers studied nearly 100 million traffic stops and found black motorists are more likely to be pulled over:

NOTE: Some of this was borrowed from a number of posts I have made in the past...but I keep learning and will until the day I pass from this world into the next. Thus I update and evolve all this every year at this time. I wish I had done so yesterday.


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2 commentaires

Before I got out of high school both of my closest black friends were no longer among the living. One got caught in a gang crossfire in which he was not involved. The other was shot by a Miami police officer simply for being black as far as any of us can tell. There was no investigation no news coverage, nothing.

I get what racial discrimination is because, while I pass for white, I'm actually half Cherokee--no tribal recognition as that's traced through the mother's line and it came from my dad--but I caught hell from neighbors who found out somehow that I was a red (insert N word here) and also from some jerks in school who were white…


Will Jones
Will Jones
16 janv.

It's definitely an ongoing process for those of us who don't experience these prejudices first hand. May we continue to do better!

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