Posts Tagged ‘civil rights’

Civil rights leaders quietly visiting Portland

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to hear Fred Gray speak. I had never heard of Fred Gray before. I had no idea who he was, but after listening to him talk, I needed to learn more about him.

Fred Gray is a prominent civil rights attorney, he is from Alabama and was the primary legal counsel for Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King Jr. The participants of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The families affected by the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. He is a man who was an integral part of changing our society.

He was in town to speak at a local college’s commencement ceremonies, and while I didn’t hear that speech – I can only imagine how inspiring it must have been for those young students. I don’t know why – but if someone would have asked me if Rosa Parks’ attorney was black or white – I probably would have said white. I would have assumed that a black attorney wouldn’t have been able to fight a case about race. That the courts would have been too biased for a black man arguing a black woman’s case, to win.

Gray talked about his history and what the cases he’s been involved in have meant for civil rights, but also where there are still issues today. As he spoke, my mind also went to the correlations between racial civil rights fights in the 60s and 70s and the civil rights fights that occurring now for gay families – that was a question I really wanted to ask him, but never had the opportunity.

It was a strange setting though for a talk on civil rights – out of the 125 or so people in the room probably 95% were white, married with 2.5 kids, middle class folks. Although I can’t know for sure – I would guess that most of the people in that room probably haven’t ever truly felt the bite of discrimination, myself included. But I would like to think that it was more that just “white guilt” as my husband put it – that made his talk so powerful and moving.

With maybe the exception of the times around the OJ trial, with the current Presidential election underway there has been more talk of race that I’ve ever really heard in my – born and raised in overwhelmingly white parts of the country – life. It seems to be the hot topic for commencement speeches all over Portland. But so much of that talk is from people who really have no idea what it is they’re talking about. It was an honor to listen to a man who really does.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.