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Articles by " Bev Scott"
10 Sep
2014
Posted in: Book Reviews
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Book Review: “Finding Billy Battles” by Ron Yates

Finding Billy BattlesReviewed by Bev Scott

Billy Battles tells such an engaging story that it is easy to forget it is fiction written by someone else.  The author includes real people such as Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Doc Holliday and events like the gun battle at the OK Corral, which contribute to the “reality” of the story.

There are actually three story tellers.   The author Ron Yates introduces us to Ted Sayles, the great grandson of William Fitzroy Raghlan Battles.  Sayles’ grandmother takes Ted to meet his great grandfather at the old soldier’s home in Kansas when he is 12.  Ted Sayles describes his reluctant meeting of the ninety-eight year old veteran of the Spanish American War and how he came to receive a trunk of journals written in “vivid prose” describing his great grandfather’s life as an itinerant journalist.  Sayles, himself a journalist, did not open the trunk and read the journals for thirty eight years after his great grandfather died.  After reviewing the contents of the trunk, Sayles sees as his task blending the journals, letters, photos and recordings with an unfinished autobiography into a compelling narrative of Billy Battles told in his own voice, the third story teller.

This book is the first of a trilogy in which Billy Battles begins by telling us in first person of his young adult life and how it took an unexpected turn, leading him through a series of unforeseen life-threatening events.  Despite these challenges, Billy becomes an established journalist in Denver where he marries and starts a family.  Unfortunately, calamity strikes and the anguish and heartache lead Billy to abandon his responsibilities.

Author Yates acknowledges that he uses the colloquial language he remembers from his own Kansas childhood in an effort to remain true to the vernacular of the time.  This is an admirable effort but it is overwhelming for today’s reader who did not grow up in Kansas.  Words and phrases which add color to the story also detract by being overwhelming to the reader in trying to figure out what is meant by “shin out”, “hog leg”, “sticky rope”, “has the sand to jerk his dewey at the law”, “inside of a hoosegow” and many others.   In addition, some of the big “fifty cent” words Yates uses such as francoteradores or insalubrious seem out of place in this story.

Interspersed with the lively vernacular are brilliant descriptions that carry the reader to the scene or provide vivid images of characters in the story such as this description of Doc Holliday:  “Doc was a strange one.  He had eyes that would chill a side of beef.  They were piercing slate gray and set deep in an ashen face.  The skin was pulled so tight over his high cheekbones that you though a bone might poke through anytime.”

The author very cleverly sets up the reader to go deeper and deeper into the story with hints about what will happen in the future such as, “Had my life not taken a regrettable turn a few weeks later, we might have developed a more romantic liaison” Or, “that kind of legal problem was nothing compared to an incident that was a few weeks away and that would have a momentous impact on both our lives.”  Or simply, “But things were about to change.”

I was hooked as Yates the author and Billy Battles the story teller graphically depict life in the last half of the 19th Century as the West is tamed and Battles wrestles with the unexpected and startling events that change his life.  I didn’t want this book to end.  I am still hooked and ready to read the next book in the trilogy.  I want to know the next surprising turn in Billy Battles life.

Author website: www.ronaldyates.com

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18 Aug
2014

Journey to Fiction – Part 3

This is the third in a serial documentation of the journey I have traveled from reading yellowed documents in the National Archives to launching a historical fiction novel based on the lives of my grandparents.

On the Trail of John Howard Scott…

Harvey D Scott

Grandfather as a young man before he abandoned Harriet.

I knew from the depositions I found in the National Archives, that John’s first wife Harriet reported he had abandoned her in 1879 leaving her “destitute” with five children and a sixth on the way.  She believed he was dead.  But I knew he lived until 1911 under the name of Harvey Depew Scott.  Looking for clues, I combed the depositions he gave to government agents when he was trying to prove his identity as a Civil War Veteran.

There he acknowledged that he was in Kansas and in 1880 went to work as a cook for an “overland”  expedition from Fort Dodge to Laramie, Wyoming.  Another time he reported that he worked cattle.  It was the time of cattle drives from Texas up to Dodge City.  Thousands of longhorn cattle were driven by drovers up the Chisholm Trail and the Western Cattle trail.  It is estimated that over five to six million cattle driven up the Western were packed into wooden railcars and shipped to Kansas City, Omaha, St. Louis and Chicago.  1880 was one of the peak years for cattle drives. Some cattle were to be delivered farther north and were driven across western Kansas to Ogallala, Nebraska, Dakota Territory, Wyoming, Montana and as far north as Canada.

Far west town

 

 

Going from Texas to Dodge City at ten to fourteen miles a day easily took two to three months.  Life on the cattle drive was dusty, lonely and frequently dangerous.  Any strange noise or unexpected event especially at night could precipitate a stampede of the thousand to fifteen hundred skittish animals.  Heavy rains meant flooded rivers and the trail drivers had to get reluctant cattle into rushing  water, make sure none of them were carried downstream with a fast-moving current or got stuck in the quick sand at the river’s edge.

Cattle towns provided distractions and entertainment for the drovers.  Dodge City was infamous as a wild and lawless town.  A typical frontier town, it acquired a reputation of glamour, excitement and opportunity.  Buffalo hunters, cowboys, gamblers, gun slingers and railroad men were drawn to Dodge City for thrill of adventure and easy come, easy go money.

Although killings didn’t happen every day, they were not a rare occurrence either.  In the saloons where drinking, gambling and female entertainment occurred, and arguments among the rough characters who frequented these establishments were usually background in the style of the American West. Handcuffs in jeanssettled by  gun fights.  The men shot dead were often buried in unmarked graves on famous Boot Hill.  Wyatt Earp, his brother, Dave Mathers and other famous gun slingers and killers hung out in Dodge City.

Did John Howard join a cattle drive from Texas to Dodge City and then go on to Wyoming?  Did the lure of Dodge City entice him north from Texas?

I believe there is a strong possibility he was in Dodge City or passing through during its rough and tumble days in the 1880’s.

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17 Jul
2014
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Book Review: “The Shadow Queen” by Sandra Gulland

The Shadow QueenReviewed by Bev Scott

Again, Sandra Gulland plunges us into the rich history of France, this time in the 17th Century.  Based on the true story of Claudette, a young woman who wanders the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Gulland introduces us to the socially outcast life of the theatre.  Claudette is a responsible caretaker who dutifully cares for her developmentally disabled brother and supports her widowed mother who rises to stardom in the theatre.  By chance, she is offered the opportunity to become the personal assistant to Athenaiis, mistress of the King with the allure of respectability, money and glittering gowns and jewels.  But, it means that she must risk leaving her brother and mother who depend on her both emotionally and physically.

Claudette loyally supports Athenaiis and dutifully carries out her demands including servicing the King and procuring remedies and potions to ensure Athenaiis’s position  as the shadow queen. The story becomes even more compelling as Claudette becomes disillusioned with the spying, power struggles, and the use of black magic.

The pace of the book is energetic and I was never bored, although occasionally the jumps in time or place left me feeling I had missed a transition.  The title is a bit misleading as the protagonist is really Claudette not Athenaiis who is the Shadow Queen.  However, The Shadow Queen is a magnificent story, with realistic characters of  depth and nuance and Gulland’s historical mastery takes you on a journey to an intriguing past.

Author website: www.sandragulland.com

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16 Jul
2014
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Book Review: “The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B” by Sandra Gulland

The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Sandra Gulland is an engaging writer offering vivid descriptions beginning in the late 1770’s in Martinique and taking the reader to the Court in Paris.  In Trois-Ilets, Martinique, we join Rose in her worry about being unmarried, without a dowry and no hope at fourteen.  Through conversations, Gulland cleverly leads us to understand the ravages of malaria, rum and gambling on the family dynamics as the pressure mounts for a decision about Rose’s future.  She is punished with eight days in the cellar for going to the voodoo fortune teller who predicts she will be unhappily married and widowed, but most importantly she will be Queen.  The “Devil” woman also predicted that Rose’s sister Catherine would be in the ground before her birthday.  With Catherine’s foretold death, Rose becomes the potential bride of a handsome, well-educated godson of her aunt in France.  With this beginning, I was definitely hooked.

The author uses the diary technique where Rose describes her experience and we are privy to her insecurities, fears, loneliness and secret hopes.  Gulland has done extensive research and offers the reader rich fact-based descriptions of life in 18th Century France.  We learn about her first marriage, children, her husband’s infidelity, insights into the French Revolution including her own imprisonment and the relationship she develops with Napoleon who calls her Josephine.  Initially the diary technique allows us into the nuanced emotional life of the young Rose, but as the book proceeds, the narrative moves into more description of her experiences.  I found myself wanting more depth and insight into how she was absorbing and incorporating these experiences into who she was becoming and how she comes to terms with the internal conflicts and contradictions she faces.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this minor historical character and a well-researched plunge into 18th Century France.  The pace is energetic and only an occasional slow pace, however, some parts seem to jump ahead leaving me in some confusion about the flow of the story.  In addition to using the diary, the author also uses correspondence from her husband to tell much of his story.  These techniques work for the most part but limit the reader’s understanding of characters through the eyes of Rose/Josephine.

Overall, I found it to be a gripping story that kept my attention from beginning to end.

Author website: www.sandragulland.com

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10 Jun
2014

Journey to Fiction – Part 2

This is the second in a serial documentation of the journey I have traveled from reading yellowed documents in the National Archives to launching a historical fiction novel based on the lives of my grandparents.

In my journey to uncover the family secrets about my grandfather, John Howard Scott, aka Harvey Depew Scott, I had discovered a trove of documents in the National Archives that confirmed the stories of another family. I had found information in Indiana searching in County records, libraries and cemeteries about John Howard’s parents, his birth, his Uncle Bill Swan and marriage to his first wife, Harriet. (see May 20 Blog) But, the National Archive documents indicated that the family had moved to Texas. In fact, a deposition from a Civil War soldier confirmed that his sister, Harriet, had married John Howard and that she lived at the time in Fort Worth, Texas. I wondered if I could find more information and learn when and why John and Harriet and their children moved to Texas. That led me on another leg of this journey.

Weatherford 3I began by exploring the census records. I discovered that in 1870 John and his family had moved to Illinois; but, in the 1880 census, John was not listed. Instead, Harriet is listed with six children living in Parker County, Texas. What happened to John and why was Harriet in Texas?

I turned back to the depositions. The government agents had tracked Harriet down in Fort Worth, thanks to her brother. In her deposition, she reported that the family moved to Weatherford, Texas, a small rural community in Parker County west of Fort Worth, but no hints as to why they moved to Texas. In November, 1879, John Howard had gone into town for a load of corn and never returned. Harriet said she was left destitute with five children and a sixth on the way. She looked for John tracking him to Fort Worth but ultimately lost the trail and assumed that he was dead. Five years later she had re-married and was running a boarding house in Fort Worth.Archives Document

Following the census records also revealed three more generations of John Scott’s in Fort Worth, Texas, but no John Howard Scott. I wanted to know what had happened to him when he left Weatherford in 1879. Since I had found interesting information in libraries and historical societies in my search in Indiana and Nebraska, I decided the next stop in my journey was a visit to Texas.

I had no better luck than Harriet. I could find no trace of John Howard in Weatherford or in Fort Worth. He got out of town and left no trace. I did find in the Scott family plot in the Fort Worth cemetery and two of the three generations of John Paul Scotts. In the library, I found the obituary for John Howard’s son, J.P. Scott Sr., a “Pioneer in Business” who died in 1959 at age 92. It is Interesting that the obituary reports he moved to Fort Worth from Weatherford after his father died. J.P. founded his company in 1892, just three years after his father left the family. Originally the company served as a wagon yard selling firewood and awnings and shoeing horses. When he retired in 1938, his sons took over the business which then consisted of the Scott Awning Company and the Scott Rug Cleaning Company.

Historical Fiction Page - Scott GravesiteWhere did John Howard go when he left Weatherford? When did he change his name to Harvey Depew Scott? What did he do between 1879 and 1892 when he married my grandmother? My journey and my search weren’t over yet. I still had many questions.

I would love to hear your stories researching your family.

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20 May
2014

Journey to Fiction- Part 1

This is the first in a serial documentation of the journey I have traveled from reading yellowed documents in the National Archives to launching a historical fiction novel based on the lives of my grandparents.

National Archives“Very few Civil War veterans have thick files like this,” the staff person at the National Archives said as he handed me two thick folders in response to my request for information about my paternal grandfather. Excitedly I began to read the forms and letters, yellow with age, which documented my grandfather’s lengthy pursuit of Veterans Benefits. At first my only goal was to search for the truth of the whispered story, that he had another family. It was true! It was documented in these files. That was why my grandmother never received her widow’s benefits.

Reading these old documents, depositions and letters was intriguing. I learned details about Harvey Depew Scott, the man my grandmother married; but who was born John Howard Scott. He was born in 1840 and reported his father had died when he was four so he was raised by his uncle. He claimed his name was wrongly recorded when he enlisted a second time in the Civil War. He swore his only wife was my grandmother, Ellen; yet his first wife, Harriet, reported in her sworn deposition that he abandoned her in Texas with five children and a sixth on the way. I wanted to know more. Who were his parents? Were there other relatives that had similar names? When did he marry his first wife? When and why did they go to Texas? Could I find an explanation behind these details? Like many other Americans, I began a journey of genealogical research to see what I could find out about this mysterious man that my grandmother never mentioned to her family after he died.

Bev in Spangler Cemetery - 1I had learned from the Archive files that he was born in Vermillion County, Indiana. I already knew that my grandmother’s family also came from Indiana so I made a trip to Indiana to visit cemeteries, libraries and county court house records. I learned the names of his parents, Paul and Rebecca Scott, when they married, stories about the uncle, Bill Swan who was a river boat captain, and when John and Harriet were married. I found the cemetery with the grave of Captain Bill Swan and a record of John’s mother, Rebecca, who was also Bill’s sister, dying in the poor house. Her body was given to Captain Swan but there was no record of her grave. I found minimal information about John’s father, Paul. I wanted to know who his parents were, did he have other relatives, where he lived before he came to Indiana, when he died and where he was buried.

Bev in Spangler Cemetery - 2I was more successful in tracking down information about my grandmother, Ellen’s family. I visited a cemetery, now an overgrown in a cow pasture, in Putnam County, Indiana with her ancestor’s graves. I found family marriage and birth records back three generations. I later visited the small Nebraska town where her parents homesteaded and learned stories of her family and her siblings. I uncovered the marriage records listing my grandmother’s name as Eva Ellen Russell marrying Harvey Depew Scott in 1892. She was 22; he was 52. There were records of their homestead land claims made right after they married as well as land claims filed by Eva Ellen in the years after Harvey Depew died.

Later I found the newspaper report of Harvey Depew Scott’s death in 1911 in Hanley, New Mexico a small community outside of Tucumcari. Why were they in New Mexico? How long had they been there before Harvey Depew died? How long did my grandmother stay in New Mexico? My next trip was to New Mexico to see what else I could uncover about Harvey Depew Scott.

Have you begun a genealogical search to learn about your ancestors? What first got you interested?

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6 Feb
2014

Coming Out as “Old”

dreamstime_xs_36095507 sign

The young woman got up and offered me a seat.  The signs behind her state that the front seats on the commuter train are reserved for seniors and others with disabilities.  But not everyone pays

I have not made any effort to hide my age as I advanced through middle age and into that category we refer to as “senior” and now approaching “old”.  I have appreciated the privileges of being senior such as reduce price fares on public transportation and at the movies.  At the same time, when I look in the mirror, I reluctantly accept my changing appearance with graying hair, the permanent creases in my face and the wrinkling skin.  Although I am fortunately healthy, my body is slowing down.  I don’t have the energy I used to have to carry a full work load, give attention to my family and engage in social and volunteer activities.  But I am not willing to hide my age.  Indeed, I have “come out” publicly as I turned seventy writing “Seven Thoughts of Gratitude on Turning 70” and publishing an essay “Writing My First Novel at 70” in the new book “Seventy Things to Do When You Turn 70” edited by Ronnie Sellers and Mark Chimsky. attention to them.  And, not all seniors want to admit their age or infirmities.  I sat down gratefully not wanting to try to balance myself and my bags on the lurching train.

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This public “coming out” has shocked some of my friends who refuse to reveal their age.  Their refusal reminds me of my aunt who lied about her age until she was well into her eighties, even though we knew how old she was.  Why are we not as proud to proclaim our age at 55, 60 or 70 as we were when we turned 12, 16 or 21?  I have written elsewhere about the impact of ageism and an uncaring society on its elders.   The discrimination in the workplace, caricatures in the media and the political environment that threatens Social Security and Medicate tells us that we are not valued as now vulnerable seniors who have contributed to our communities and our society.  We absorb those beliefs into our own mental models and we judge ourselves as unimportant and worthless as we get “old”.

Instead, we need a sense of purpose, a way of contributing to our communities, engaging with others in activities that give us meaning and an attitude of appreciation for the wisdom of our experience, for the pleasure of the present moment and for the opportunities the future can bring us.  Coming out as a vital, healthy, active senior enables us to counter the images we carry of elderly being synonymous with decline, deterioration and despair.

This coming out as a senior or as “old”, is similar, for me, to coming out as a lesbian.  Rejecting and overcoming the societal mental models of aging is analogous to rejecting and overcoming the societal judgment of homosexuality.  The wisdom of increasing acceptance from others by coming out has been a proven benefit in the progress of the LGBT movement.  I believe coming out as a senior and admitting my age openly will also benefit all of us in finding more acknowledgement and appreciation of  the value and wisdom of our life’s contribution.

This blog was published in The Transition Network newsletter in November of 2013, generating unprecedented  response.  You can see the responses in the TTN January Newsletter.
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What Is Your Legacy?

I found myself in conversation with a friend discussing the second edition of a professional book released last year. I commented that updating the book had not been a part of my plan for my third act, but it was a professional legacy. That conversation started me thinking more about my legacy and how I might use my third act to create and define that legacy. I use the term “the third act” to refer to that time after we transition from building a career and/or growing a family (our second act) into an intentionally designed stage in our lives which brings us meaning and purpose, opportunity to engage in our passions, enjoy the everyday pleasures and a sense of appreciation for the learning and rewards of our lives.

LegacyIn the past, I have often thought of legacy as the remembrance of a person who has died, the personal and, perhaps, professional memories of has left us…what others remember. More recently, I have come to understand that we can leave an intentional legacy designed before the end of our lives. Thus, the idea that updating my book for a second edition, is an intentional legacy. It is a concrete and practical way of providing guidance to future young professionals. It also provides me a way of reflecting on my own experience, capturing my learning from both the successes and failures, and offering some insight and perhaps even some wisdom.

Since I have been thinking about my professional legacy, I realized that another professional legacy I am leaving is The 3rd Act program I have co-created. As the bulging demographic of the baby boomers now reaching 60 continues, they will be responding to the question that poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In researching the work on positive aging for the 3rd Act, we found that investing ourselves in activities or causes outside ourselves, is one of the most significant contributions to healthy aging. Thus I hope The 3rd Act, as one of my legacies, supports the quest of coming mature generations.

Many who are focused on a family legacy put together family trees, document family stories and create family videos to leave for future generations. For me, at the personal level, time with my grandsons, sharing family stories and taking them on adventures is a legacy I hope they remember time with Grandma for future guidance and reminiscing. My next third act writing project is to write a historical novel based on the lives of my grandparents.

And finally, I will mention my will, the document that many of us think of when we hear the term legacy. Somehow for me, this is the least significant component of my legacy. My material and financial resources bear little connection to the person I am, the contribution I have made to learning, making the world a better place or raising a daughter and influencing her children. For now, I hope my professional book, The 3rd Act and my personal time spent with family and community organizations are all memorable legacies. And there may be more to come.

What is your legacy? Have you given thought to intentionally creating your professional or personal legacy? What will you leave for your family and the generations that follow? What is your third act action plan for your legacy?

(A longer version was published in “Seasonings: A Journal of Senior OD Practitioners”, Volume 7, Number 1, Winter 2010.)
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15 Jan
2014
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Book Review: “The Beautiful American” by Marilyn Holdsworth

The Beautiful AmericanReviewed by Bev Scott

I was engaged in this story which begins in current time with an antique dealer, Abby, who purchases a coveted lady’s desk for herself.  The desk is not only the connection between Abby and her suitor, Nathan, but also to primary character of the second and major story line, Jasmine, a slave in the Virginia household of the future President James Monroe.  This second story unfolds when Abby finds a diary in her new desk.

The author’s descriptions are vivid and clear and carried me into the experience of Jasmine’s struggles to help with and learn her letters beside her master’s spoiled and self-centered daughter, Eliza.  Jasmine’s character develops from a naïve inexperienced young girl awed by her opportunity to move into the big house, receiving clothes, an education  to a more confident young woman enchanted with a young aspiring artist she meets in Paris where Master Monroe serves as Ambassador to France. Jasmine supports her mistress, Elizabeth Monroe, in preparations for entertainment, settles the high-spirited Eliza, keeps confidences for Elizabeth and earns a privileged place in the Monroe household.

I liked the inclusion of actual historical characters in this story.  We follow the realistic characters of James and Elizabeth Monroe, as James becomes a significant player in the politics of our new nation.  Monroe is encouraged and supported by Thomas Jefferson.  The author even brings in Napoleon and his wife Josephine while the Monroes are living in Paris.  The story is not deeply involved in the historical realities of these characters but adds spice to bring them into the story

Jasmine’s story is told primarily in her voice.  This point of view allows the author to give us an intimate view of Jasmine’s character by using the dialect of the uneducated slave. Following this dialogue can be a challenge for the reader, but Holdsworth manages to use it to convey image and character of without slowing the reader down too much.  As Jasmine is educated, including learning French, the author drops the use of the dialect.  At times it was a bit confusing when the point of view moves from the intimate first person to the observer’s voice in describing the experiences and actions of James and Elizabeth Monroe.  Since the point of view is Jasmine’s telling of the story, I wanted Jasmine to tell me more of her internal dilemmas and thoughts about her condition.  Does she worry about being surprised and perhaps raped by Gabriel, the bitter rebel slave from a nearby planation?  Did she have internal conflicts about leaving her love in France?  The story doesn’t tell us.

As a reader, I anticipated the evolving romance between Abby and Nathan as well as the outcome for Jasmine.  I would like a little more uncertainty.  The author uses the diary as the vehicle to reveal Jasmine’s story.  Yet I wonder if an uneducated slave would tell her story in a diary.  Despite the questions I have raised, Jasmine’s story as well as the opening story of Abby and Nathan kept me engaged with a quick pace and vivid descriptions in a realistic historical context.

Author website: www.marilynholdsworth.com

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17 Sep
2013

I Have a Dream, Trayvon Martin and the Voting Rights Act

 

I Have A Dream - 1This month we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and the Reverend Martin Luther King’s inspirational “I Have a Dream Speech.”   In that speech, Dr. King called for our country to meet the “promissory note” written in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence….the promise that all men are guaranteed inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  He reproached America for defaulting on that “promissory note”.  Yet he optimistically refused to believe that “the bank of justice” was bankrupt.  Fifty years later, we still have not fulfilled the promise.  Recent happenings emphasize that as a country we are still behind on our promise.  Is it any wonder that some worry that the “bank of justice” is bankrupt?

The verdict in the Trayvon Martin case brought forth healthy dialogue in the spirit that would make King proud.  It also, sadly brought forth vicious racist diatribe.  The jury in the case determined that according to Florida law, George Zimmerman did not murder Trayvon Martin.  Many in the white community argue that justice was served, agree with the verdict and don’t understand the angry reactions from the black community.   One of the reasons that many in the white community don’t understand is that as whites we haven’t lived our lives facing the suspicion of authorities that we are a punk, a criminal or involved with drugs. Yes, our hearts might race momentarily when we are pulled over by the police, anxious about getting a speeding

I Have A Dream - 2

ticket. But we do not live with the common experience of suspicion simply because of the color of our skin.  We are not stopped as we drive through our own middle class neighborhood as an excuse to search our cars for drugs, nor are we arrested and thrown in jail on the suspicion that we committed a burglary because we happen to be the same skin color as the burglar, nor are we roughed up, frisked or shot because we look like we don’t belong in the neighborhood.

 

As a college student in 1963, I remember listening to King’s speech and being inspired by his dream.  That inspiration led me as a young white woman to become an activist in support of civil rights, to work in the “War on Poverty” and to become involved in anti-racism education.  When I first heard King’s speech, I thought the problem was rooted in the South and in big urban areas.  I wanted to change the voting rights laws and remove “Whites Only” privileges.  I wanted to increase opportunity for the poor and disenfranchised.  But I learned from my experience that the problem was not only in discriminatory laws and practices but that the problem was also lodged inside me and each one of us who are complicit often in blissful unconsciousness of how our white privilege serves us.  It is the ignorance of what white privilege means that many of us in the white community don’t understand and it is the knowledge and experience of what white privilege means that angers the black community.   Because of white privilege, If Trayvon had been white, he would still be alive.

I wrote recently about the excitement and celebration for the Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA and allowing the lower court ruling against Proposition 8 in California to stand.  These decisions are great leaps forward in support of the civil rights of gays and lesbians.  Yet that same week, the Supreme Court delivered another decision which also highlights our current default on the “promissory note” of equality for all.  That decision I Have A Dream - 3struck at the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act allowing states with histories of voter discrimination to change election laws without federal approval.  Some states moved almost immediately to require voter identification and to begin re-districting as this Supreme Court decision allows without federal oversight on the potential impact of disenfranchisement.

The Court seems to believe that we are beyond discrimination at the ballot box almost fifty years later.  Do they believe the “promissory note” been paid off? The moves by these states demonstrate that it has not.  To counter the moves by these states to enact so called “anti-fraud” and other laws of potential disenfranchisement, civil rights leaders are now acting in defense.   They recently announced a campaign called “American Values First” which will fight for legislation and will offer templates to expand voting rights in all 50 states.

Dr. King said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  The arc is not complete.  We still must bend it toward justice when it veers off,  take a stand to pay off the “promissory note” of freedom and liberty and fulfill King’s dream, “that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

 

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