I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. I’ve lived in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, but Memphis will always be home. My roots are there.
My husband (of thirty-nine years) and I were living in Memphis on April 4, 1968…the day Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. We were a young couple expecting our first child living in a small apartment on Jackson Avenue. Little did we know that morning that evil lurked in the heart of a man in downtown Memphis. Like many sheltered young people, we had not seen, firsthand, such raw hatred and ugliness.
Along with the rest of the nation, we were in shock when we heard the news. We were appalled and sickened. There would be other times in years to come in this land that hatred and prejudice would show their ugly heads and lives would be ruthlessly taken, but that was later and this was here and now. I close my eyes and try to remember that week. Mostly, I remember the upheaval, the sadness…the tragedy of it all. I remember it being a time of FEAR and discord for everyone – regardless of race.
On a flight from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest a few years ago, I had an enlightening experience. I was on a small aircraft with one flight attendant and two distinct sections of the plane: first class and coach. I was in coach. She made the announcement that if we (coach) NEEDED anything to let her know, otherwise there would not be a beverage service (for us) on that flight. I was sitting on the second row of coach and had a “front row seat” for the show. She totally catered to first class…warm towels, beverages, nice snacks, etc. The lights were out in coach. The gentleman sitting across the aisle from me remarked that he had never seen this before. Neither had I and it made me mad. It hurt my feelings. The Holy Spirit used this for a teaching moment. He reminded me of all those people who had unjustly spent years at “the back of the bus” or subjected to even worse treatment. He said this is how it felt. It hit home.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day here in the United States as it is celebrated near the date of his birth (January 15). I’ve listened to several of his speeches and I am always moved. My favorite is “I Have A Dream”. I have to ask myself what I would have done if I’d been born in different circumstances.
I don’t have the answers for how to eradicate prejudice. Prejudice is everywhere and it isn’t always about race. I still have my moments, as everyone does, but I fight it. Personally, I think our Heavenly Father sees us through a very special lens…the blood of His Son. If we are believers, then we’re all the same color – whatever that is. I think it will be interesting to see when we get to Heaven…
This post was originally published in My Southern Heart.