Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Black and White

An example of how laterally my brain works: last night, something outside sounded like a bullfrog ==> so I posted on FB that he might be called Jeremiah ==> Three Dog Night ==> my favourite song by them.

In fact, one of my favourite songs of all time.

It was decades after desegregation that I first heard this as a child, and even then, I felt its power: I stayed stock-still to listen - and cried, falling in love with it years past its heyday.

I sang it as I watched Nelson Mandela walk out of prison on television, wanting to ring it out over South Africa in joy and pride.

Today, after SCOTUS' Voting Rights Act decision of a few weeks ago, after Trayvon and George Zimmerman, even the furore around the biracial couple in the Cheerios advert, the sense of Martin Luther King's dream dying makes it even more powerful and poignant, especially as I learned today, whilst hunting it down, that the original 1954 version opened with this verse:

Their robes were black, Their heads were white,

The schoolhouse doors were closed so tight,
Nine judges all set down their names,
To end the years and years of shame.

The Warren Court. The Court I so desperately wish could have been immortal; and if not them, then the Burger Court that followed them, the Court of my childhood.

Three Dog Night dropped the verse - and why not? It was 18 years after Brown v Board of Education; 8 years after the Civil Rights Act. They thought we'd won. How wrong they were.

My heart hurt - I'm not sure how many more times it can break.

And just like that first time, the older me wept, for different reasons - for the hope in the song, the certainty we were going to be there soon, surely in the 28 years that would mark the millennium. They could never have imagined the SCOTUS decision in 2013 that would be so different from the 1954 one. 

The world is black, the world is white, with so many of us so many shades in between. And together we learn to...do everything.

Perchance to dream that one day, all the colour of one's skin will mean to anyone is how much melanin it contains.

No comments: