Monday, January 21, 2008

MLK Day and other things.

Today is Martin Luther King day. Rev. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech resonates deeply with me. The dream is closer now than it was in his time, but there's still some distance to go.

My parents were careful to raise me as much as possible without prejudice against people of different races, religions, gender, or backgrounds. I'm profoundly grateful for that and I've tried to do the same with my son.

One of my earliest memories is of my parents protesting segregation at the local livestock auction in our small town of Gonzales, Texas. There was a separate section of seats that African American people were required to sit in. This was about 1961 and the Jim Crow laws were still in effect. The African American community was boycotting the auctions. Mom, Dad, my younger brother, and I sat smack in the middle of the "colored" section, as they called it then. I did not know what we were doing, but I knew we didn't usually go to the auction. There was something odd about the event that made it stick in my five-year-old mind, even though my parents didn't tell me at the time what we were doing. The "white" section was packed full and NO ONE looked at us. The "colored" section had two African American men on the top row and one on the bottom. I remember they seemed very nervous and one man on the top row left quickly after we sat down. After about 20 minutes my Dad said "I think we've made our point." Mom agreed and we left. Years later I asked about it and Dad told me why we went. The auction was desegregated later, although I'm not sure when that occurred.

For those of you too young to remember, signs like this below were used during the Jim Crow era to designate water fountains, seating, entrances, etc.


A Marie said...

I love this story. I had no idea. For some reason this suprises me. I mean, it shouldn't. I can totally see them doing this. It's funny because now dad rails so hard against the laws that are slowly taking away the rights of the immigrants. It's the new segregation, I guess.

Leslie Todd said...

This is one of my favorites. You know how small towns are...I think it was brave of them. Dad was also in the middle of an employment controversy when the company he worked for hired a black man for a "white" job. Mom was blazing some trails too, although she doesn't seem to like to think of it that way.