In my house, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a hero. My dad was proud of the number of Jewish Americans who marched in Civil Rights protests. He sobbed when MLK was murdered. If my dad had been alive two years ago, he would have given his full support of my producing a video for the 2013 MLK Day Celebration in Brookline and proud of our young people featured in the video that participate each year in the Sojourn to the Past.
When I heard about yesterday’s protest at the town’s 2015 MLK Day Celebration in Brookline, I was hurt and frustrated. Hurt because I’m proud to be a part of a community that puts so much care, effort and thought into honoring Dr. King and I hated the idea of that celebration being hijacked. Why didn’t the demonstrators who took over the stage ask to be part of the Program? I was also frustrated because Monday’s protests reminded me that in 2015, as enlightened as Brookline can be, our town government and public services do not accurately reflect our diverse population.
If Massachusetts is a Blue State, than Brookline is a deep, dark blue. But our liberalism does not give us a pass from grappling—along with the rest of the country, in the wake of Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY—with how to take the next steps toward racial, religious and ethnic equality. We are not where we want to be as a community despite the tireless efforts of many to get us there.
In the next few weeks, the Hub will cast as wide a net as possible to see what those in our community feel about our present state of our nation, our community, and what we want “tomorrow” to look like in Brookline and beyond.
Let me start the ball rolling. This is what I want Tomorrow to look like in Brookline.
I want to put the whole notion that racism in the United States is behind us at the top of the “This is totally untrue” category.
I want to see a little more sensitivity to the past when it comes to understanding race. You can idealize how our country was formed all you want but the fact remains our country was born into slavery. As full of laws as our Constitution was, there was no law to end the practice of one person enslaving another. No matter how many July 4ths have passed since then, that initial decision not to ban slavery affects our country to this very day. We carry generations of DNA: Jews born after 1945 are affected by the Holocaust, African Americans born after the Emancipation Proclamation are effected by slavery, Irish by the genocide related to the Great Potato famine, and it goes on and on. Man’s inhumanity to man affects how we view ourselves.
I want us all to find common ground with each other and stop throwing good people under the proverbial bus. We need to look for solutions, not scapegoats.
I want us to stop viewing ourselves in terms of demographics. Not every person of a certain age, color, gender, sexual preference and religious affiliation thinks or acts the same. Our aspirations are unique to us. Pigeonholing people is just a form of institutionalized dehumanization.
We should all become more intimate with the Town’s Reports on Workforce Inclusion and Brookline Community Foundation’s Understanding Brookline: A Report on Poverty, and Understanding Brookline: Emerging Trends and Changing Needs.
I want us to ask ourselves hard questions about what role nepotism plays in Brookline hiring. We need to hire the best public servants regardless of where they were born.
I want us to celebrate those whose family trees go back for generations in Brookline while acknowledging that people who’ve moved here in the last few years have no less capacity to love our Town. Their voice matters, too.
I want everyone to listen more and grandstand less.
I want to be part of the solution with all my heart and soul.
R. Harvey Bravman