Is Service Worth It?
Interview with Dr. King and Mrs. Roosevelt
(Continued from Part I)
PW: Do either of you think that the rejection you faced or the untiring hours you spent to make a difference in our human condition just wasn't worth it?
ER: . "Ask not what your country can do for you," Jack said in that hammering inaugural speech of his, "ask what you can do for your country."
MLK: Yes, And Bobby paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw. "Some men see things as they are and ask,'Why?' . I dream things that never were and ask 'Why not?'
ER: I must agree. I have zero regrets, PW. I gave my time freely because I expected Good would result from my efforts.
Now I see minorities and women cracking glass ceilings at a steady pace.
Martin, your Washington 'dream speech' inspired, invigorated, and paved the way for that initial cracking through.
Mind you, a struggle will always be before our nation because of who we are in the world.
Yet, however slowly progress may happen, PW--progress still continues to happen in America.
PW: And you, Dr. King? What have you seen?
MLK: I know what you are really asking, PW. I read that comment you posted on Gather.com.
PW: What would Dr. King think? Is that the comment you mean? The one asking black singers to help eliminate the 'N-Word' from our black youth's vocabulary? As a term of endearment and otherwise?
MLK: You live close to where Nat Cole purchased his first home. Name one, just one singer today who could endure what Nat endured to remain in that house.
Some in 2010 so freely write the 'N-Word' into their music intended for our young folk. Given our history in America, the pain from which the word came into existence--what could these songwriters have possibly been thinking?
ER: When Mr. Cole became the first Negro singer with his own TV show, many viewers bashed him with the 'N-Word' with no term of endearment intended. That was the state of our human condition at the time.
PW: I was quite young when my father took on your voters registration drive in my small hometown, Dr. King.
MLK: Really? You remember that?
PW: Indelibly. Once I went with my parents to an SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] confab in Macon. On the way back, a highway patrolman pulled us over.
ER: My dear, PW!
PW: He said," If you nigg-ers had stayed at home today. I could be in my own house watching baseball instead of out here in the hot sun writing your ticket."
ER: Oh, my child!
PW: That was right before you--
MLK: ...went to Memphis?
ER: [Getting up to console him] Martin!
MLK: I had so much to do!
And for the first time in a long time, I actually saw which direction to go in. For the first time in a long time...my heart didn't ache when I lay down to sleep at night.
ER: Now Martin, let it go. Just let it go.
MLK: The garbage strike was to be the beginning.
It was all about economics, all about class struggle. I saw how to bring the disenfranchised of all segments of the country's population together in what was intended as the next stage of the civil rights movement.
Then I was shot down in my prime like a--
PW: --like a 'no good nigger'!
ER: Now see here, young lady!
MLK: Oh, yes, Eleanor. Shot down like a 'no good nigger'.
PW needs to say it! I need to hear her say it! In that denigrating way it used to be said.
So that those who read this interview can understand why that word should offend not just blacks but all humans.
That PW, is the pure essence of human rights. Allowing another to have dignity regardless of useless and controlling traditions that offer the precise opposite of what they purport to offer.
PW: Then maybe Mrs. Roosevelt, those readers will begin to understand the sting that words like nigger, wetback, and a thousand other such degradations embed hurt in the souls of Dr. King and Nat Cole, Cesar Chavez, and in my own father's wonderful soul.
ER: But how does screaming the word possibly eradicate the offense? Enlighten me, please.
MLK: [Stands and paces} I don't know. Do you, PW? Forgive us, dear friend.
PW: Mrs. Roosevelt, I'm sorry too. As soon as I recalled the day my father got that expensive ticket he certainly couldn't afford to pay, I lost all objectivity.
And really, I just wanted to know if Dr. King cringes whenever he hears the N-Word word as much as I do when someone says it around me.
MLK: We don't hear that word here, PW. But I guess you got my answer as to my disdain for it. Its use still offends me as much today as it did that day in Memphis.
ER: And, PW...
ER: If the hateful ones on the other side to which you must now return, do not get the point of this interview--well, that's just stubbornness on their part. Right, Martin?
MLK & PW: Right!
Copyright 2010 PW Dowdy. All Rights Reserved.