On August 28, 2013, I was stopped in traffic a few blocks from Folger Shakespeare Library for about fifteen minutes as police allowed marchers for the 50th Anniversary March on Washington celebration through. No big deal, I wasn’t in a hurry. Someone a few cars ahead of me had other ideas and they kept honking their horn. I looked behind to where an officer was gesturing when I thought the marchers were through and there was a group of white people trailing behind in twos and threes. It struck me as odd because they weren’t mixed in with the rest of the marchers. They were their own little group nowhere near the main group of marchers I saw. The thought that maybe they were there just to get out of school/work did cross my mind. Judgemental? Maybe. But I couldn’t understand why they weren’t with everyone else. It’s 2013. Are we still such a segregated society that we can celebrate a historic moment in the civil rights movement yet remain separated from each other based on the color of our skin?
I sat in my car after finishing at the library debating whether or not to go to the National Mall. I really wanted to walk around and see the war memorials. I knew my other options was to return the next day before heading to Manassas.
But I was right there.
I found parking right in the middle of the Mall. I figured it was meant to be that I was there. I peeked up at the sky before I got out and it looked like it would open up and pour down on us any minute.
If it does, I can duck into one of the museums.
I got out and fed the meter most of the change I had which was only an hour’s worth. A lot of change for a little time.
I passed by dozens of people selling t-shirts, artwork, and other commemorative memorabilia. I was between the Washington Memorial and the Reflecting Pool when I realized how foolish I was.
But I was there. In the middle of the 50th Anniversary madness. Okay, maybe not madness. But there were people everywhere and I felt a bit mad in the head for not thinking it completely through.
But I was there.
I took a few pictures while trying to listen to the music and speeches (the sound on the speakers was poor) then walked across to the park behind the White House for more pictures. I thought about going to the National Gallery (my favorite museum), but realized I wouldn’t have enough time so I went back to my car.
I had THREE minutes to spare on the meter.
This week, thoughts of the straggling marchers and the President’s speech ring in my head after I read the firestorm of vitriol when the new Miss America was crowned.
How are we still at a place of deep ignorance for truth and reality? How is it twelve years after 9/11 that everyone with brown skin is called an “Arab?” How is it people have no understanding of what an American really is and that it is not based on the color of their skin?
Schools include all races. We don’t have separate bathrooms, drinking fountains, and entrances for whites and non-whites. Inter-racial marriage is legal, yet it still raises ire in people when they witness it on TV in a Cheerios commercial. This country grew because immigrants made the United States their home and people still tell those of color to “go back where you came from” even if we were born here.
Should I count myself as thankful that since 9/11 I’ve never been called an Arab despite my brown skin? No. I’ve had enough people use my race against me in their anger, bitterness, and ignorance to know how it feels. It strips away your humanity and nails you to the wall as if you were nothing but a WANTED poster.
Yes, we still are so segregated mentally that we cannot celebrate civil rights and equality in a truly integrated way.