Springtime in the Deep South brings with it two guarantees - dogwood blossoms and pollen. Those beautiful, white blossoms appear every year and serve as a sign that the damp, deadness of winter is finally over. The bright, yellow pollen appears too, covering cars in a film of sunshine colored dust. It’s everywhere.
Children growing up in the south spend most of their time outdoors in the sticky air, sweetened by springtime blossoms. When they are young, they climb the dogwoods, dangling from the branches, and they trace words in the yellow film of pollen with little fingers. The beauty of the bright colors is all that they see.
Children see as much beauty in the dogwood blossoms as they do in the fallen pollen.
At night, when children lay their heads on the pillow, they dream of dinosaurs, unicorns and fairy tales. All is right with the world.
Little children grow and the doors slowly close. Dogwood dangling and pollen painting become faint memories. The pollen becomes a burden, hosed off of the car on the weekends.
Those grown children no longer spend their time outside in the sticky air. They stay inside, with the lights dim and the air cool. They hire someone to plant a beautiful dogwood, right outside of the double glass doors, so that they may look at it and show it off to neighbors. The dogwood sits there, majestic and beautiful, viewed through the lens of a glass.
And try as they may, they can never keep the pollen out. Every time they open their doors, the wind blows it right into the foyer.
They cannot shut it out completely, for somewhere, deep down, they know that even the beautiful dogwood is often just a decoy, distracting and detracting from the years of pain and hatred that have darkened the Deep South.
Many think racism is a thing of the past, but it is still here. There are still doors that remain shut, and people who’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a child. For it’s not that children don’t see color, it’s just that they appreciate all color equally, from the light hues of the dogwood blossom, to the browns and grays of its branches, to the bright yellows of the pollen it produces. Children are not pinned down by ignorant morals and false values.
We should try to remember what it’s like to be a child.
Mr. King had a dream. He hoped that “one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls would be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
Most likely, the children would have joined hands from the beginning, except that adults told them not to. When children see pollen, they see a sunshine canvas for painting. When children see other children, they see a friend to play with and a hand to hold.
Mr. King’s dream is coming true, more so every day, but we must keep marching.
If we want to get anywhere, we first have to open our doors.