I was honestly going to write this nice blog about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. Or at least, I imagined I was going to do that when I started my research. I went searching for African American civil rights leaders, thinking I'd find a list of people who were equally influential in the movement but not honored as strongly as King.
Unfortunately, I stumbled upon a site listing African American holidays. And as I read down through the list of celebrations, I discovered a holiday listed on May 20th.
May 20th is BLACKOUT DAY - A day when black people are to spend no money to prove to the country that they are not a minority and they do have an impact.
I am the descendant of German, English, Irish, Swedish ancestors.
I am a child of Mormon, Methodist, Lutheran, Pagan, Agnostic raising.
I do not believe that I am racist or otherwise prejudice based on race, creed, religion, etc.
(Though I will admit to occasional sexism when Prince Charming is being particularly stupid!)
This holiday irks me. But my irritation is not directed to African Americans, simply to people of this mentality. And here is why.
- If a group of people encourage us not to spend money with groups who are known to associate with certain foreign sects, they will call it patriotism - defending a nation against terrorism.
- If the government places tarrifs on trade to prevent our money from funding known drug peddling countries, they will call it civil duty - fighting the war on drugs.
- If a group of African Americans rallies to spend no money on goods and services for a day, they will call it a political statement - proving they make an impact.
- But if I gathered together a group of white, European-Americans and asked them not to spend money on goods and services to prove that we make a difference, I would be viewed as a backwoods, hillbilly, racist!
White European-Americans cannot establish exclusive colleges or universities. We do not get special scholarships for our racial heritage. We are excluded from grants, groups, and programs because we are NOT considered a minority.
The only exception to this rule is women. The women's suffrage movement granted women rights in 1920. Women in the United States were granted their rights after African Americans, slaves, and animals. At one point it was illegal to beat your horse, but perfectly acceptable to beat your wife! And even though the United State would like to claim themselves a front-runner in this endeavor, the truth is that twenty-one countries had already given women their rights by 1920. That lists includes England, Russia, Poland, Norway, Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, Iceland, Hungary, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Belgium and Australia, as well as some lesser known countries like Ukraine, Luxembourg, Kyrgystan, Latvia, Georgia, Estonia, and Belarus.
Every school age child knows who Martin Luther King Jr. is and most have heard of Malcom X. How many know who Susan B. Anthony was? Let alone, Alice Stone Blackwell or Harriet Stanton Blatch? What about Sojourner Truth? On what day does the entire nation celebrate the moment when all PEOPLE were created equal in this country? On what day do they acknowledge that their women were treated as lesser human beings for centuries?
Don't get me wrong here. I am a firm believe that the United States is one of the best countries for a woman to be born in to. I believe that our country has a good heart and is built on strong values. And I by no means, believe that women should be handed any free rides in this life, based solely upon their gender. However, I also do not believe that any other race or creed deserves special treatment based on travesties committed generations ago.
When Martin Luther King led his people to stand for their rights, I do not imagine he planned for what we have today - people still using the repression of their ancestors to manipulate a system for personal gain.
My female ancestors have been maids, servants, and baby factories for their husbands. They have died at the hands of Civil War soldiers and suffered attacks from Native Americans as they crossed the Great Plains. My female ancestors migrated to this country on overcrowded ships. Some traveled 1300 miles across an uncharted prairie with children on their hips. They have died in childbirth, been widowed with ten mouths to feed, and fought through the hardships for the sake of their families. All long before this country honored them with the right to be people!
So on this day, as a nation celebrates a great leader who did great things for his people. I cannot help but wonder how many more generations of white European-Americans will have to be made to feel guilty for the crimes against African Americans. And if it is to be a celebration to honor those who paid the price, when will others who have suffered to gain their rights be granted such an honor?