Forty years gone. April 4, 2008.

Zach de la Rocha (1970 — )
I’ll give you a dose
But it can never come close
To the rage built up inside of me
Fist in the air, in the land of hypocrisy
Networks at work, keepin’ people calm
You know they went after King
When he spoke out on Vietnam
He turned the power to the have-nots
And then came the shot.

Forty years ago, my family was getting to know my new sister, five days old and the center of attention.  Forty years ago, I was in kindergarten at Catholic school, miserable and alone, the only black child in a class of children and teachers who wanted nothing to do with black kids.  Forty years ago I was discovering that books were friends, saviors.  I could disappear into one at recess and not have to deal with the parroted-from-their-parents slurs my classmates flung at me.  Forty years ago, I was too young for assassination news to mean anything to me.  I have a hazy memory of my mother crying, but that’s all.

And now it’s forty years later.  It’s today.  It’s 2008, and there’s the utter surprise of a black man as a serious contender for the presidency of these United States.  My students never really got why that’s such a big deal.  And sometimes even I don’t get it.  But then I do.  Forty years gone.

(The lyric up top — my poetic posting for the night — is from Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up,” one of my favorites.)

4 thoughts on “Forty years gone. April 4, 2008.

  1. inmate1972

    I heard on the radio that Dr. King has now been dead longer than he was alive. I’m not sure that accurately explains the impact of a life. Some people, even gone, are immortal.


  2. Jules

    Somber day when the impact is studied and the speculation follows…what if.

    Thank you for this post…my heart still aches from the rich, raw, realness of your words.


  3. Maggie, dammit

    I have no words to describe this loss.

    What I will say is it’s interesting what you said about your students not really seeing that it’s a big deal that a black man is a presidential contender. It reminds me of the time Dave and Gracie were playing catch in the yard and he told her she throws like a girl, an obvious insult to you and I. But she just stared blankly at him and said, “But I AM a girl.” She had no idea what he was talking about. I rejoiced silently.


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