Gov. Bobby Jindal thought the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech at the March on Washington the perfect time to argue that Americans should stop thinking of race. "It's time to get over it," he writes for Politico.com. "Now that would be progress."
Would it really?
If King had dreamed of a country where our differences weren't noticed, he had the rhetorical gifts to express that. Instead, as he crescendos through his finale, he imagines the day when "all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty, we're free at last!"
King doesn't dream of a world where men cease calling themselves black or white or stop identifying with their religion, but a world where people live in harmony with others who are different.
Musicians know that without difference there can be no harmony; yet when it comes to human society, some people hear the "jangling discords of our nation" King laments and suggest that the only solution is an imposition of sameness.
On its surface, it sounds kind of cool, everybody identifying as the same, nobody having a reason to reject anybody else. But it is, perhaps, the most pessimistic view of society there is, suggesting, as it does, that we can't be trusted to embrace folks who are different, and are too small-minded and self-centered to co-exist with people unlike ourselves.
A colleague from my first job, a rural Southern white woman, said recently she doesn't see me as black. She's a sweet woman. I knew she meant that as praise. I tried to reflect her sweetness in my response. Being black is not shameful, and it's not something I expect my friends of other races to "get over" or look past.