I don’t remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., not like Jim remembers. Jim was in 4th grade when Martin Luther King was assassinated. He says he remembers Walter Cronkite cackling over a black-and-white TV tube. I can picture the television, set in a blond wood console with long spindly legs. I can picture Jim’s dad with his tortoise-frame glasses and Jim’s mom with big dark eyes and a small round mouth.
I’m feverish now, not dangerously so but enough that my arms ache as they hold the notebook and pen upright on my stomach, against bent knees. I’m lying down, not wanting to get up again today, although I know I will, eventually. Feverish, which seems like a good state to be in, a non-remembering place. I have blurry vision, and all I can say is, I was young young and innocent.
I would have been in Mrs. Salisbury’s class, or wait, she was second grade. She was tall and black and wore shoes I associate with nurses. I bet she remembers Martin Luther King as if it were yesterday, MLK-the-time as well as MLK-the-man.
They say, these days, I hear it on the news almost every day, that Latinos and Blacks don’t get along well. They say it when talking about Barack Obama and whether he’ll get the Latino vote or whether Hillary Clinton will. I was thinking about that in the bathtub this morning, trying to steam the sick out of me. I thought of a guy I knew in Malaysia who told a joke about crabs in a bucket, how some crabs were Malays, some Indians, some Chinese. It was a politically incorrect joke, the punchline being something to the effect that one of the nationality of crabs pulled down the others while another nationality got out of the bucket by stepping on the others.
It’s auto-discriminación. Self-discrimination, this so-called feud between brown people. You get stepped on enough by white people, you start looking for somebody else to step on. It happens around the world among people who are marginalized.
I remember South Africa and how the neighborhoods ringing Johannesburg went out in concentric circles based on color. Whites in the middle. Indian-White next. India-India, Black-White, Black-India, Black-Black. We get closer to the core the lighter our skin is.
I remember making up a story about being Italian. Italians were Europeans. Caucasians. It was a way of saying, I’m just white like you, a way of stepping on someone else’s back to get a little bit higher. Except I’m not just like you.
I don’t remember Reverend King, don’t remember where I was when I was seven and he died. Probably formulating my story, revising myself so that by the time I got to high school I’d have an alibi when the kids called us spics and called our school Vato High. Mom says she remembers. Her voice gets thin (and forgive my feverishness now — I really should be sleeping not writing) when she says, Oh, I remember it. Those were sad times, she says.
-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – MARTIN LUTHER KING