I mean, how did I end up in this place…or how did this place come to be a location where people working for equal rights are whiners?
I can only imagine that someone who would say such a thing also thought that Martin and Malcolm and Medger were also just whining. And so were César and Dolores and Philip Vera Cruz and the Filipino farm workers at Delano. Whiners all. Really, there was so much more important stuff to worry about than equal rights in their time.
Now, I don’t claim to be anywhere near the same league as those people, but the point is the same. You either believe in equal rights or you don’t. And when you see someone without them, you do your damnedest to see that must change.
At least that’s the code I have lived my life by. Do what you can for other people. In the Haight that led me to work with the Diggers. And it’s why I joined the Poor People’s Campaign after Martin was assassinated…to march to Washington and help build Resurrection City and demand some justice for the poor. Yes, even some of us there were white. Poverty was and is not racially segregated.
And it is why, after I was caught dodging the draft and forced to serve in the military two years, I chose to return to college and become a teacher. And it is why I now teach at a predominately minority college in New Jersey now.
Lord knows it isn’t the money.
A person should do what they can to help others.
I truly believe that. It’s why I come here to publish my essays.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a job. I have a home. I have a partner. And I can usually pay my bills. I could be like the people who call us whiners and just sit back and tell everyone else to suck it up.
But I don’t. Having been told that people like me will never get equal rights until people like you understand what it means to be one of us and how we live our lives…or try to…and why we should have equality, I made it my mission to assist in that educational effort.
Often doing that feels very lonely. Often I wonder why I just don’t go elsewhere. But I don’t, because I don’t think anyone here is incapable of learning from what I teach.
But being called a whiner because of it? That tells me a lot about the person who would say so: it’s someone with equal rights, who has never had to worry about where their next dollar is coming from, who hasn’t been homeless, who doesn’t have to worry about being arrested for using a restroom. People with privilege.
So how about people with that kind of attitude just knock it off. Better would be to climb on board the march for equality. I know you have it in you.
Or you wouldn’t be here.