I was born in 1959, just before the Civil Rights Movement. One of my earliest memories of things happening in the world was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was 3. My mother turned on the vacuum cleaner to try to hide the fact that she was crying, but I noticed.
I remember seeing the footage of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. being shot on live TV when I was 8, but the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., just a couple of months before that, has stayed with me much more than the Kennedy assassinations. Maybe the reason is that the Kennedy assassinations were national tragedies, and personal tragedies for the Kennedy family, but the shooting of Dr. King was a human tragedy.
The Kennedy assassinations mark a tumultuous time in American history when change was in the air, and many forces were fighting for footing in the changing political, social and economic seas. Many people, my parents included, put their hope in the Kennedys, who represented a vision of positive change, our very own Camelot.
With the death of President Kennedy that vision died; with the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the coffin was nailed shut; with the death of Robert Kennedy, Jr., that coffin was buried.
Over 50 years have passed since those chaotic times, and some things haven’t seemed to change all that much. People are still people, and the cancer of endemic and systemic racism continues to live on. It’s hard to say whether it is any less ingrained for all these years. Modern technology keeps it burning in our collective consciousness.
We have made strides, right? I think we have.
Though racial prejudice is not as overt or “accepted”, and racism has gotten more subtle and underground, modern technology is like a kind of chemotherapy that targets the cancer and exposes it for treatment. Will Smith said recently that racism is not any greater now than it used to be; it’s just filmed more.
It seems like this cultural cocktail of COVID isolation that has given us more time to reflect, even as our collective pent up energy grows, and the most recent examples of hidden racism exposed to the sunlight have opened the floodgates to a current of active response like I haven’t really seen before. Not just the usual suspects, many people of all political, religious and socioeconomic stripes are coming together in unity, saying, “Enough is enough!” Continue reading