Friday, September 5, 2014

What Is Safe?

A group of citizens in our town is working to both celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Martin Luther King Day and to promote his values through other community activities throughout the year.

In this effort we have the wholehearted support of the school district and all its resources, including personnel. Or at least their support for the MLK Day celebration. When we sought to broaden our work, to address a major marginalized population – immigrants (both documented and undocumented), the school district pulled back.

It seems that Martin Luther King, Jr. is a ‘safe’ topic; immigration is not.

How ironic. It wasn’t ‘safe’ to advocate civil rights in the 1960s and 70s. The concept of Blacks and Whites drinking out of the same drinking fountain or eating in the same restaurant was beyond the comprehension of many. And voting, staying in a nice hotel? Unthinkable.

In discussing this recently, someone noted that given 50 or 100 years, attitudes change. No one thinks these things are revolutionary any more. Racism still exists (no question) but it is at least buffered by the appearance of tolerance.

When we look back at historical atrocities – slavery or the Holocaust or apartheid – no one speaks up on behalf of the oppressor. No one says slavery was a good thing or the Jews and gypsies should have been decimated or South African Blacks should have been cruelly denied access to hope.

It is entirely possible that in a few years, we will no longer find it acceptable to split up families through deportation or to send children back into life-threatening situations.

Maybe someday -- the sooner the better – immigration will be a ‘safe’ topic.