We are all in this

January 18, 2010

in this i believe

Mr. Monk, my 7-year-going-on-50-old child, asked me last Friday at dinner,

“Mom, is it true that you would not be here if Martin Luther King did not give THAT speech?”

I was caught by surprise, I’ll be completely honest. Although I understand the impact Dr. King’s speech has had on the American history, culture and psyche, it has never occurred to me that what Dr. King said from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 23, 1963 would have material effect on my personal fate. After all, I was not even born then in 1963. What’s more, I was born in Taipei and grew up there and did not make my way to the U.S. until 1993.

I looked at my husband, and although he looked as puzzled as I was, he did give me the “a-ha” look that confirmed what was racing through my mind. Mr. Monk was right.

The Chinese Exclusion Act, a federal law enacted in 1882, was not repealed until 1943 (China was, after all, an ally during WWII…) when Chinese already residing in the U.S. were permitted to become naturalized citizens. However, it was not until the Immigration Act in 1965 when the federal law in the U.S. was relaxed enough to allow large number of immigrants, especially from the non-European parts of the world (contrary to the belief by the politicians at that time, I am sorry to point this out), to enter the country legally. The Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. King in the 1960s opened the eyes of many Americans to the rampant racism permeating the country and therefore made the passage of the Immigration Act even thinkable.

“You are right. It is possible that Mommy would not have been allowed to enter this country if the Civil Rights Movement had never happened.”

As I looked at Mr. Monk, his beautiful face, wondering what was inside that little head of his, it came to me: And there was the laws against interracial marriages!

Anti-miscegenation laws were not eradicated completely from the U.S. until 1967. As a matter of fact, as recently as in October 2009, a Justice of the Peace in Louisiana refused to officiate the civil wedding of an interracial couple, citing his concern for the wellbeing of the interracial offspring produced from such a union. (No, I am not making this shit up… I wish I were. Believe me.)

I added, “You are right. Without Dr. King, it is possible that daddy and mommy were not even allowed to get married.”

“And that means I would not even be here!” Mr. Monk said with amazement, looking pleased and proud that his existence on earth was made possible because Dr. Martin Luther King gave that speech, 47 years ago.

And he was right.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Michele January 18, 2010 at 12:21 pm

WOW… what a great post.
“Justice of the Peace in Louisiana refused to officiate the civil wedding of an interracial couple” – WTF??? I had no idea. That is just disturbing beyond words.

Thanks for sharing such an important and enlightening post!! ;)
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January 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm

What an amazing post and puts it all in such personal perspective. I used to actually teach the “I Have A Dream” Speech but never took it that step further to imagine what would be without it. I sure wish I had read this while I was teaching! What a beautiful addition your family’s thoughts would have been.
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Mama Zen January 18, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Absolutely true!
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Velva January 18, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Lin, this was a great post. Mr Monk’s question has given us all a history lesson today.
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Merrilymarylee January 18, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Oh, could the world ever do with more Mr. Monks!
I was listening to a radio program today about whether or not electing a black President had really changed anything and several people felt that, although it SHOULD have, it had actually had a negative effect on race relations. I particularly appreciated the comments of one caller who said that in order for President Obama to be elected, he had to be flawless… and that when we elect a few women, Hispanic, or black incompetents like we have white men, THEN perhaps we may have achieved racial parity. George Bush should have set white Republican men back 40 years.
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magda January 18, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Soooo true. Obama did have to be flawless…where as if white with the right name and funding, a complete dipshit can not only run for president but get elected multiple times while all but promising to fuck everyone over. I think I would like to post your comment(Merrilymarylee) for a blog entry. If I were more sharp and well informed, this might be something I would hear and report.
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magda January 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm

I am soooo tired and behind on everything, I plan to respond to your comments and also want to rip off your warning post, the one in which you “invented” fucktard.

I love this post. MLK did great things for ALL of us. It is not just another day off or a day for “blacks”…so gross when people say blacks. We all need reminders. Love to Mr. Monk. What a fine job you are doing.
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Jen @ NathanRising January 18, 2010 at 10:15 pm

This country has come a long way with racism… but the sad part is that even though we have come so far, we still have a LONG way to go. Racism should be eradicated by now, but there is so much STUPIDITY in America (because people seriously have to be stupid, ignorant, idiodic dumbasses to be racist… to think that someone’s skin color somehow makes them “less” human) that racism is still going pretty strong. It makes me so sad. I just hope that in my lifetime, things will turn around!

Mr. Monk is indeed wise beyond his 7 years!
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Ambrosia January 19, 2010 at 12:17 am

Thank you for this history lesson!

My husband told me about that judge denying the interracial couple a marriage license. I was steamed for days.

You have reminded each of us of the importance of Martin Luther King. He was not only a leader of the civil rights movement for African Americans, but for everyone. We, like many countries, have a sad history of racism. I am grateful that we have moved in a more positive direction. Yes, there is much to do. I choose to celebrate, however, on this glorious day what we have accomplished.
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Shelli January 19, 2010 at 3:09 am

Wonderful blog! I had never thought of things this way. Thank you (and Mr. Monk) for opening my eyes and teaching me a bit of history!

I remember the case about the dipshit judge who refused to marry the couple. I clipmarked it, and blogged it, and status commented it, and linked it, and ….. well, you get the point. I was PISSED! For weeks!

I think that’s what we all need to remember, in order to truly change the way things are in this country: the pissed off feeling we get when we hear of someone else (or ourselves) being discriminated against for any reason. We all deserve the equality described in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, and even beyond. And we need to actively fight for it … not just let someone else fight on our behalf and die for the cause, like MLK did (among others).
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Absence Alternatives January 19, 2010 at 6:04 am

I just want to say: Thank you for letting me know that this post makes sense to you.


Diane January 19, 2010 at 7:24 am

“From the mouths of babes . . .” Very cute. And smart kid.


Elly Lou January 19, 2010 at 9:26 am

You gave me a little shiver this morning and a little ray of hope. Hugs to you and his monk-ness.


TheKitchenWitch January 19, 2010 at 9:42 am

As part of an interracial couple, I hear you, sister! Crazy to think about, isn’t it?
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Robin January 19, 2010 at 11:54 am

That’s one smart kid.
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January 19, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Wow. That brought tears to my eyes.

It’s good to be reminded now and then that this country has shown some progress. Even if you have to sometimes look back decades for comparison.
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Unknown Mami January 19, 2010 at 9:55 pm

My husband is half black, half white (don’t worry I focus on the white – I hope you know I’m just stealing a Sarah Silverman joke). He would not be here. I would not be married to him and my gorgeous raza cosmica daughter would not exist and the world would not be as bright.
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Absence Alternatives January 19, 2010 at 10:33 pm

It is scary to think about What If, eh? Movies have tried to show us the What If scenarios. I just didn’t manage to make the personal connection with such force until the little old man asked me the question. He keeps me on my toes.


LittleMissEnglishTeacher January 20, 2010 at 4:38 am

Wow! What a thought process from a 7 year old! How amazing!

We are discussing racism in my class at the moment (about to start To Kill a Mockingbird), and I had a Hispanic kid ask me where “they” were while all of this was going on. Made me really think … and realize that I REALLY need a history book of some sort.
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magpie January 20, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Wow. How to make history real.


Kitchen Butterfly January 22, 2010 at 2:12 pm

This week, my 6 year old brought a book from school – it was the story of Martin Luther King (we’re Nigerians living in the Netherlands!) …… I was SHOCKED and glad too that she could understand (a bit) the differences in times and why…..

And somehow it got on to the topic of Obama and I think she could see how far the world had come. Glad to know those days are mostly behind us.


Absence Alternatives January 22, 2010 at 7:27 pm

You are definitely far from home too! :-) Thank you for visiting and commenting. Yes indeed. And all of these things now become even more important once you have children.

The pictures on your blog are gorgeous. Actually, they are almost criminal seeing how they make me want to start learning how to cook! ;-)


Lagunatic January 24, 2010 at 8:06 am

I tell my husband all the time not to piss me off – interracial marriages are barely tolerated where we live and he’s the race of non-majority. Then I wink and let him roll his eyes at me.
Or course, we’re both atheists so it’s not like we’d be allowed to step foot into a gov’t building anyway. <— facetious.
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