This is a belated expression of a thought that occurred to me earlier this week. I participated in two marches on Monday to commemorate Martin Luther King and his ideals. One was in Lexington, the moderately enlightened college town where I work; the second was in Paris, a smaller, more rural town which is as close as I can get to a “hometown” (Tatertown wouldn’t be able to rouse much of a crowd)
A newspaper picture confirms my own observation that the Lexington marchers were a pretty ethnically diverse group. Unfortunately, the Paris marchers were much more homogenous. I think there were fewer than a dozen white faces in the crowd, and four of those were Simpsons. I don’t think this is due to a higher level of racial tension or animosity in Paris; there were no hecklers or hostile bystanders. I think it’s just a lower level of awareness and understanding. Too many people see the MLK celebrations just as “a black thing”, and don’t realize that Dr. King’s devotion to peace, justice, and equality should be embraced and supported by all of us. We’re all better off because of the work of Dr. King and others like him, and we’ll all be even better off when more people climb on his bandwagon.
To cut Paris some slack, I should point out that this was just the second year they’ve had an MLK march, so maybe the idea will catch on in future years. I think there’s still some uncertainty about attitudes. Last year, at the beginning of the march, we were reminded of Dr. King’s legacy of non-violent resistance, and requested to respond only with love to any hostility we might encounter on the march. I thought (hoped?) that the organizers were being overly paranoid, and was relieved (but not really surprised) when the march completed with no need for us to remember the warning. This year, nobody even mentioned the possibility of hostility, which I took as a sign that people had been encouraged by last year’s events (or lack thereof). I hope that next year everyone feels even more comfortable, and maybe more people will be encouraged to join us. (Warmer weather might help too.)