Yesterday I was sitting in a bar (yes, a bar) eating some fish and chips and watching a soccer game when I had a conversation with a white male about Portland, DC, and several other things. He asked what I’d accomplished in DC since being there and what I still wanted to do. I mentioned a few of the things I had done and how I was bummed I hadn't visited some of the historic monuments, specifically the MLK Jr. memorial and the exact location of his, “I have a dream speech”. I took the trip to DC for fun, however, I was looking to have a moment in such a historical place to remind myself of who fought before me.
After finishing saying this location the man responded to me by telling me how he doesn’t visit the location of the March on Washington anymore because of Trump. In his own words, "it reminded him of all the bullshit going on in America". I'll be honest, I understood what he was saying no doubt but as I listened to him, not everything he was saying I fully understood, so I felt compelled to respond. I simply said back, “yeah, things definitely suck, but you know it’s interesting, because as messed up as things are and as angry as things make me about the decisions being made by people in office, I really want to go there because I need that hope. I need to envision that day, MLK Jr.’s speech. I see hope when I stand where someone like him and thousands like me and not like me stood. You’re fortunate you know, that you can choose to be angry and not show up. However, if I choose anger, if people like me always choose anger over showing up, the legacy of those before us dies in our anger. If you’re not showing up and I’m not showing up, then that monument is just a “statue” with no meaning”.
I don’t recall my exact words in that moment but it was something like that, but ultimately we ended up having a good conversation about privilege and how myself and my brothers and sisters often times have to choose to see hope in not so great situations and how burdensome that can be.
This conversation just brought into perspective how easy it can be to step back rather than press in by showing up. So today I want to challenge my white brothers and sisters to step into the discomfort of being uncomfortable. To just show up and choose to remind yourself of the significance and importance of such places. To realize that if a Black man and his Black colleagues in Jim Crow South can gather thousands of people together and sing and dream blocks from an administration struggling to determine if they deserve basic civil and human rights and fast forward decades later and that area can still symbolize so strongly hope and liberation in the heart of a nations capital amidst racist ideologies, you as a white american can do something, just like MLK Jr. and so many others did something without even having or possessing the key ingredient that allows one access to all that American constitutional rights affords...privilege.