Menu

Liberated Muse Arts Group

“For the vast majority of white Americans, the past decade [1950s-early60s] —the first phase—had been a struggle to treat the Negro with a degree of decency, not equality. White America was ready to demand that the Negro should be spared the lash of brutality and coarse degradation, but it had never been truly committed to helping him out of poverty, exploitation or all forms of discrimination. The outraged white citizen had been sincere when he snatched the whips from the Southern sheriffs…[But] White Americans left the Negro on the ground and in devastating numbers walked off with the aggressor. It appeared that the white segregationist and the ordinary white citizen had more in common with one another than either had with the Negro.”
– MLK, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community (NY: Harper and Row, 1967)

On the Bus, January 21 by Virginia Avniel Spatz

The awaited big day has arrived,

Our bus is crawling through streets

filled beyond function by the marching throngs.

 

I consider the value of joining the chorus

declaring support for immigrants,

religious freedom, and all gender expressions,

healthcare for all and control of one's own body,

resistance to misogyny and tyranny

 

But this is my city, and I fear

too many here to proclaim democracy in action

know nothing of our status and cares.

I wonder how many acknowledge, or even notice,

who is missing from the party.

At another point in life I might have

compromised differently

found comfort among the many

 

But today, mid-March on the #96

mine is the only pale European skin

on this usually somewhat integrated bus route

now stopped at an impromptu police blockade.

Seated with my black neighbors,

some anxiously noting supervisors' reactions,

while an enormous sea of mostly white visitors flows

unimpeded, I cannot shake

MLK's 50-year-old words:

“White Americans left

the Negro on the ground

and in devastating numbers

walked off with the aggressor.”

 

And then:

The peace of the thing

applauded

without context

The joy of gathering in numbers

celebrated

without history

Cooperation and protection of police

assumed

without noting “restrictions may apply.”

Unity and solidarity

proclaimed

with so many still unseen and unheard.

 

One woman's peace and joy, another's pain

“unity” wielded as a club

Solidarity as badge not challenge

A whole nation without room for me?

This is my city, and I fear

return to table of contents

 

Virginia Avniel Spatz

Virginia Avniel Spatz writes for local and national audiences, focusing on education, religion, justice, and community. As a freelance, Virginia has spent 20 years producing features, a monthly news column, and, most currently, a series on worship communities for the DC-based Capital Community News. She also writes radio and blog items for the Education Town Hall on We Act Radio. She published juvenile non-fiction in national Cobblestone periodicals (1993-94).