Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
“Me and Mrs. Jones” was a number one hit for soul singer Billy Paul in 1972. I have always loved the song and not because of its questionable themes (at the time this song’s release, those themes were lost on my naïve 8 year-old self). I always liked the song because it made me think of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Jones. While I don’t remember a whole lot about what we learned in the second grade, I remember Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones was a kind and wonderful woman who made each day at school a joy. She had way of making me feel welcomed and important each day. When Mrs. Jones spoke to me, I felt cared for. There were other teachers that I had through the years that stand out to me for many reasons – some rich and wonderful and some not so much. However, what makes Mrs. Jones unique was that she was African-American.
I grew up in Alabama (Birmingham and Tuscaloosa). As I have learned my history, I realize that it was no small thing for me to have black students in my class and black teachers in my school. What is so wonderful to me now is to realize that, for me, it was no big deal. Because of the sacrifice of others who fought for equality and a higher calling, I grew up without knowing a world of segregation and separation. Because of the openness of my parents to have high school and college students in our home of every color and nationality, I learned of our common humanity and not a separation of color. I did grow up in a culture where there were vestiges of the old ways in the form of blatant and many more subtle forms of prejudice. Over time I began to try to rid my life –as best I could – of those things that were still a part of my life. I did this because of people like Mrs. Jones and many others. How could I tell certain jokes or say certain things I had learned through the years about the kind and wonderful people who had such an impact on my life.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I am saddened by the heritage of division and hatred that has existed in this country and around the world. It is even more disheartening to see that these things still go on in various forms. For me, Mrs. Jones was not my “black teacher”; she was a kind and wonderful woman. I pray that one day our children will live in a nation where people will not be judged by thecolor of their skin (whatever color it is), but by the content of theircharacter.