Pausing for a moment to acknowledge February's Black History Month
PW Dowdy: [Sits slowly then arises quickly to look around in awe. Turns suddenly to find him standing in back of her.] I'm not sure just how I got here. But..I'm sure grateful you consented to my long awaited interview.
Martin Luther King, Jr.: Welcome PW. I asked a friend to join us. I hope you don't mind. [Extends his hand].
Eleanor Roosevelt: And she is on time. [Plants a kiss on MLK's cheek] Martin, good morning. And good morning to you, young lady.
PW: What an honor, Mrs. Roosevelt. With the two of you here, I don't know where to start.
ER: Martin said you wanted to discuss human rights. Why not there? PW, isn't it?
PW: Yes. Lets start then with human rights.
MLK: Eleanor denies this but she pioneered our human rights movement long before I took my stand.
ER: [Pours three lemonades and then joins them at the round table]. Those pioneer steps you speak of were mere extensions of the duties of the First Lady's Office.
Franklin and I discussed the human rights issue during most every dinner conversation I think. We were both passionate about the notion of equality for all Americans.
But he was president, he had elections to win. We agreed that the First Lady could pick up the ball. That way, who could take offense?
ER: Exactly my point.
PW: [Turns to MLK] A shield you never had--
MLK: A black, a southerner, and a preacher [ laughs heartily]. The combination that offended plenty of folks in the earlier days.
ER: In the sixties, equality was a most abrasive concept to bring to the country's ear.
PW: Human rights...how do you each define what that means?
ER: The president and I were listening to the radio one night. as the announcer labeled our new CCC program as an 'N-Word'-Loving-Communist Plot!
Now more whites joined the Civilian Conservation Corps than anybody else, mind you. The moment Negro men began to enlist though, the negative publicity shot through the roof for us. My dear PW, that is what human rights is not.
Some would rather privilege their race horses, their hunting dogs, their prize gardens even--than they would the human beings they have arbitrarily deemed undeserving of a slice of our American Pie.
MLK: Human rights, PW--connects all of us together.
A white man gravely injures himself in a car accident.His Hispanic neighbor leaves work to give blood for his friend's surgery.
PW: Exactly, a Good Samaritan. The caring we should possess for each other simply because we all have a share in something that we agree is our humanity...
ER: Can anyone say that they have not been on the need-side of the very compassion necessary to attend to another man's hurt? I can't, and know no person who can.
MLK: I was in my cell in Selma Alabama when a local demonstrator was detained.. Never before had I seen someone spit on another person. I asked myself at the time just what could anybody have done to cause another to spit on him? Then it dawned on me.
He existed. Simply. by being different--inside and outside-- from the good and inviolate perception his inhumane jailer had of himself; that was the poor demonstrator's sole offense.
ER: My heart breaks when you tell that story.
MLK: I know, forgive me, Eleanor.
I needed to bring the incident up so those on PW's side of creation might realize what their predecessors endured to bring about certain freedoms and advantages some now enjoy and believe are theirs automatically.:
PW: One of the very things I put on my list to discuss.
Can you juxtapose those raw feelings that popped up during the Selma incident to those of how you see some taking for granted the benefits that resulted from what you and other civil rights demonstrators suffered?
There are people today who actually believe that they have the freedom to not vote. Today, Mrs. Roosevelt, the vote is the only assurance that a slice of that Apple Pie will be offered to women or to minorities.
ER: It took Martin to pull that one off, PW.
In my day, Negroes and women voting -well, that was grounds for the worst for those with the courage to show up at the courthouse to do so.
PW: Do either of you ever think that it wasn't worth the rejection, or the untiring and dangerous hours you gave to make things better for all Americans?
Conclusion next time...
Copyright 2010 PW Dowdy. All Rights Reserved.