There are always moments in life when we say things that are taken out of context. Sometimes, those things are because we have been too vague and sometimes it’s because the listener is only partially paying attention. And then there are the times where the communication breakdown is because one person intentionally decides to state your case for you.
I’ve been trying to decide what to do with another blog that I set up a few months ago. When I first started it, I thought I wouldn’t be able to find content to write about because I kept hearing that we’re a post-racial nation and I wouldn’t want to talk about race if it doesn’t exist anymore…
Of course, as always, I was hit over the head with just how much racism and bigotry is out there just waiting to be discussed. I was even more overwhelmed by the fact that so many people kept saying ‘it ain’t race’ when, indeed, it is.
While I was wasting time trying to decide what to do with Sarah Jane’s blog, Green Eyes and Good Hair I saw this article about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC. and remembered how surprised I was to see the inscription when I visited the memorial shortly after its unveiling. I remember thinking that it didn’t seem like that was a quote King would have thought to have engraved and it’s definitely not something visitors would understand because it was so out of context.
I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.
How odd, almost conceited. Would King have said that sentence and left it at that? I didn’t think so and apparently, many others felt the same way. The actual quote is from “The Drum Major Instinct” speech King gave in 1968.
“The Drum-Major Instinct,” which Dr. King delivered on Feb. 4, 1968, is about the folly of wanting to feel important, of seeking recognition and praise. That is a basic human impulse, he said, but it is dangerous and can lead to many social ills, including bigotry: “A lot of the race problem grows out of the drum major instinct, a need that some people have to feel that they are first and feel that their white skin ordained them to be first.” … The Washington Post
What is it about needing to feel important that drives us to do so many things that can be taken out of context? That’s sort of what I have been struggling with when it comes to Sarah Jane. As a mixed race woman, I can talk about race, class and gender until my last breath because I live it every day. The question I kept coming back to was ‘should I do this anonymously?’ and the answer always came back to: No.
If we believe that something is unjust, it seems unfair to demand fairness while being anonymous, if we can help it.
If we’re going to be drum majors for a cause, we should be willing to, whenever possible, stand by our words and put our back into our actions. That’s why Sarah Jane, as much as I would have loved her, needs to be simply a part of who I am – especially since that’s exactly who she is – she’s me.
There’s no magic remedy for what ails this country when it comes to race – and we may always be looking for reasons to separate ourselves from others – but just as I’m always asking A to stand by her words, I should also stand by mine. So Sarah Jane – there goes your anonymity – but maybe removing the veil will help me always remember to be clear about what I mean, especially when it comes to how we treat each other. I will never be a leader of thought like King, but I can try my best to be honest and open about the things I believe the most. Maybe not a drum major, but definitely part of the marching band.