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Monday, January 17

To Honor a King

On Martin Luther King Day
I am reminded of all the forms of prejudice.

So many people marched with Mr.King partially to fight the opression of black americans and partially because they felt fighting for the rights of black americans might also do some little thing for their own human rights.

The first gay rights activists did not march in their own name but in the name of black americans in the years before the term "African American" was annointed.

It's easy in this PC climate where most prejudice is kept in whispers or in denials and where most businesses or employers would not even dream of getting away with blatant racism to forget. It was not so long ago when blacks and whites had separate rest rooms.It was not so long ago when blacks were not permitted to sit at the front of the bus or to sit at the same lunch counter as white folks.

Traveling around the country in a camper I remember the tail end of the 60's. I remember the 70's quite well too.

I remember a gas station that still had the faded etching of "whites only" above its restroom.

I remember going to restaurants and never seeing a dark skinned face. Never even thinking I would.

I remember too, moving into Rumson New Jersey and being told that the private beach clubs had only just starting letting Jews in 5 years back.

I remember the bully who threw pennies on the floor and told me "Pick them up cheap Jew!"

I remember the high school I walked into in 1978 and how the black students sat on one end of the cafeteria and the whites in the rest and no one thought it was strange until one of my best pals Jenny started dating Clinton a black football player and started sitting with him.Then I sat with Jenny too and all of the cafeteria stopped eating and started whispering about the two white girls sitting at the black table and about Jenny dating a black guy.

I remember letting Calvin Kendrix a black football player carry my books while I wore his jacket and we walked home together. My mother pulled up in the car and screamed for me to get into the house. I don't know what upset her more
that he was black or that he wasn't Jewish.

I remember going dancing with my lover Alison a beautiful black woman from Grenada and watching her be pulled aside by an assortment of black lesbians who told her things that amounted to, "she was a traitor" for being with me. One of the lesbians whispered in my ear "Leave our women alone."

I remember being gay bashed in Central park by two "African American" men
who saw my girlfriend and I kiss and started throwing rocks at us.One of them stuck in my leg.

I remember the gang of kids my lover and i observed. Their ages ranged from 11-16. They were black and Latin. They surrounded us chanting foul anti gay things and we didn't take them too seriously until the smallest one, the one who came up just above my waist, pulled a gun.

I remember Crown Heights Brooklyn in 1981. The Chasids drove around in station wagons, 10 of them with baseball bats. That's how they protected the neighborhood. I hung out with Hector and his family, the Puerto Ricans who ran the deli. The Chasids didn't like it; a Jewish girl hanging out with the Latins, but the deli crossed all cultural barriers. Even the Chasids bought beer there late at night when no one else was open.

I remember the era when black women and white women never went to the same parties. My partners and I threw the first party that set out to purposely get white and black gay women together. We said we are already women, already gay already a double and triple minority, why cut ourselves out further.

I remember the women who stayed and danced and the women who took one step in.. saw the diversity and turned around and left.

"Fuck them" we said, "narrow minded."

So it's 2005 and while the rights in this country of African Americans seem to be won on the surface, below the surface so much of the old sickness still sizzles.

It's 2005 and I do not have the legal right in this country to marry a woman.
Half this country seems so horrified by the notion of true gay rights that they would amend the constitution to stop us.

It's 2005 and people are still de-facing synagogues. Israel is still denounced countless times more, it is till critisized countless times more, it is still made to defend itself countless times more, then it would were it a non-Jewish country.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that the fight Mr. King fought is over.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that prejudice is gone.

It is still here. Sometimes the faces of its victims change, their sex, their color, their sexual preference, their religion, their country of origin.

Prejudice is still here.

Look into your own heart.

What kind of face makes your heart beat a little faster?

Do you see dark skin and walk the other way?

Do you see a Jew and feel contempt?

Do you see a Moslem and immediatey assume them to be a terrorist?

Do you see a gay person and say to yourself, they will rot in hell?

Do you see a woman and think, that you as a man are better?

Do you see a Chinese person and feel they are the same as Japanese, as Thai, as Korean as all other Asians?

Prejudice is alive. We keep it alive in our own hearts.

It's part of human nature and the worst part of it. I suppose it falls someone under self-preservation gone wrong.

Today I chose to honor Mr. King by searching into my own heart and by trying to figure out the people I am prejudiced against and by fighting against my own inner bias.

Can you do the same?

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