Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King, Jr., a Voice We Need to Remember on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Today, Monday January 5, 2007, is the day set aside to reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

It seems to me he was a great visionary. He experienced the most offensive discrimination in his life time, and although he did not live to see all the positive changes we take for granted today, I am sure he "believed" in basic human goodness. He believed we would overcome all the ugliness, the denial, all the seperatness, all the stereotyping, all the uncomfortableness.

When I grew up in the 1940's and 1950's most folks I knew "talked" a good "game." Everyone is equal, don't discriminate, was the message delivered. Our revolutionay leaders, like Jefferson, and presidential "fathers" like Lincoln, were held up to us as example. Then, after "higher" education in the 60's, when we were confronted with the actuality of how our "honoured" leaders really behaved, and were confronted with how our "darker" classmates continued to suffer from discrimination, we were forced to take a stand.

Silence, back in the day, was considered supporting the statis quo of discrimination against people of colour.

I had several roomates, and often went to the "soda fountain" on Longwood Ave in Boston. But when I went with the one who was "coloured" we were ignored. It was as though we were not even there. No one said anything, and if we called out to the waitress for service it was as though we had no voice. My roomate would tug at my sleeve, and beg me to leave. She would hang her head, and plead with me "not to do this." So, always, I would acceed to her sensibilities.

Martin Luther King became the voice that could no longer be ignored.

Now, today, we see much progress, but there remains much that needs to be done. When my son, (Chinese surname with caucasian features) flies on a plane, he is always "randomly" pulled aside for a complete "body search." Folks on the "T" in Brookline casually inform me that the "T" has gone to the new Charlie Card, because there are fare cheaters in "Dorchester."

Worse, from my point of view, even those who identify themselves with the Civil Rights "Movement" today activly ignore the voices of another group who historically has experienced the most grievous discrimination. These Civil Rights activists even deny the fact that People With Disabilities even have Civil Rights. They "believe", mistakenly, that the Civil Rights Act of 1990, public law 101-336, otherwise known as the ADA, is really a "health care-housing" bill, and has nothing to do with protecting People With Disabilities from discrimination.

How can one explain to those "troops" from the "Civil Rights Movement" that we too have Civil Rights, and that we too need our voices to be heard, and not ignored?

Today, we have a challenge before us, to end the "invisibility" imposed upon us, and by speaking out, so our voices can join those other voices that eventually were heard before us. It is possible, it will happen, but we all need to lend a hand.

It would be so helpful, however, if we had our own "Martin Luther King" to lead our "marches," to give voice to our "dream."

Kathy Podgers
Advocate for Persons with Disabilities
Founder, Citizens for Feasible Compliance


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