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Comment by William R. Cumming
January 19, 2015 @ 1:17 pm
A personal story for MLK’s Day! First my father headed the VA’s social work service in the then Department of Medicine and Surgery in the VA. Starting 1947 and ending 1964! He trained or helped train over 500 black male and female social workers. This is background.
Every year he and my mother hosted in our dwelling
a small party and buffet for his immediate office [which he headed]! A relative, Marguerite Owen loaned her domestic help. Ms. Owen for many years the highest ranking female civil servant in Washington, heading the TVA Office of Congressional Affairs. She has a wonderful cook named Mattie. The first year the party was held was 1947 or 48 in my parent’s rental house in Georgetown on “P” street, not far from Wisconsin Ave. I was ATTENDING Hyde School in Georgetown.
Lingering around the delicious smells emanating from the tiny kitchen I watched MATTIE! She never touched and in fact shyied away from the butter letting others work that ingredient.
Finally at age 5 or 6 what4ever I was I asked MATTIE why she never touched the butter? She took me in her arms and hugged me and then held me so I could see her face and hear her words. She said Billy you are very observant and you have guessed correctly that I don’t touch BUTTER [and of course she was a fabulous cook}! Here is what she told me. “My grandmother was brought over in chains from Africa on a ship. On the ship twice a day large bowls of rancid butter were put in the slave hold for two reasons. The slaves were to rub their largely naked bodies with the butter to protect their skin and moisturize it. Second they only had the butter to eat. My grandmother [Mattie’s grandmother] said I will always remember those black arms and hands reaching for an into the butter. Then MATTIE told me that story of my Grandmother is why I don’t eat or touch butter.
I do cook and eat and often use butter but MATTIE’S story will be with me always. This was the first real conversation I ever remember having with a black person.
It is with great sadness that I reflect on discrimination of black humans in the USA and elsewhere.
Comment by Archie Goodwin
January 19, 2015 @ 3:57 pm
How about starting with judging all these people by the content of their character? It seems the governing criterion is the very one MLK sought to transcend. Pity.
Comment by Nero Wolfe
January 19, 2015 @ 8:34 pm
@Archie Goodwin – I think this is mostly about seeking to understand.
King’s words from the Dream speech were “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I think character can be viewed as the “shadow cast by that which we do not see.”
Comment by Lily Rowan
January 19, 2015 @ 9:11 pm
Some of you gentlemen seem to be going through a lot of contortions to almost make a point. Maybe one point is that you can’t have it both ways. If your main priority is character, then being color blind is attainable and may even be a good thing. If your main priority is color or race, then it seems you have no choice but to elevate that over everything else. So which do you want to be: character-blind or color-blind?
Now one if you is going to go on about how the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but that sure didn’t come across in Dr. King’s words.
Comment by Rex Stout
January 20, 2015 @ 3:04 am
This day not about making points, being blind to color or blind to character. It is to commemorate a man who fought to make our nation strong. As his wife wrote, “We call you to commemorate this Holiday by making your personal commitment to serve humanity with the vibrant spirit of unconditional love that was his greatest strength, and which empowered all of the great victories of his leadership. And with our hearts open to this spirit of unconditional love, we can indeed achieve the Beloved Community of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.”
Today is a day for the heart. Back to the brain tomorrow.
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