Last week my family and I attended a luncheon on a military installation, honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. The guest speaker was introduced as a Harvard graduate and president of a university. The speaker begins by saying a few things about Dr. King. Then he expresses how “they”, a term he used to represent white people, said blacks could not accomplish much. He continues by informing the audience that he received his Doctorate from Harvard and out of nowhere poses the question, “you know what “they” called a black doctor?” The audience is silent wondering what is he getting at, “Doctor n-word.” He continues talking about an incident he and a co-worker had during lunch as they discussed the positive aspects and opportunities they were afforded since receiving their Doctorate degrees. At the end of their lunch he states, “as if sent by God a white man walks up to them and says n-word, n-word, n-word, n-word. And as the man walked away he looked back and said the n-word two more times.” And the speaker said from that experience he learned, “not to think too highly of yourself.” I was flabbergasted by what I was hearing, and shook my head in disgust.
I found the speech shocking because it is not a part of everyday life. I don’t want to take away from what happened to African–Americans. It is just that for children in today’s society and the military culture it is not very evident. I think it is very important that students know their history, but we have to prepare them for the requirements of their time. I often hear that you must know where you come from to move forward. But this can be done without ignorance and purposely carrying out a stereotype. It becomes a question of what is appropriate for private and public conversation. If that is how the speaker chooses to speak in private, I don’t care, but publicly speaking around people’s’ children and as a representation for black people is unacceptable. It is a frustrating situation because this man had the opportunity to be an example of a successful black person, set a standard, and deliver a speech to transform lives as a reflection of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed would one day be possible. Instead he took the opportunity to demean our white brothers and sisters along with embarrassing himself. Dr. King was no Dr. N-word and he inspired us all to think highly of ourselves to make this nation better. I feel guilty that I sat there for this ridiculous display. We cannot move forward as a people when individuals like that take us back. I’m just saying!!!
*Edited by Whitney Ellis, my amazing sister. 🙂