Every time Martin Luther King Jr. day rolls around teachers ask their students and political pundits ask society a basic question, have we realized King’s dream? In the past year society has provided numerous examples of America circa 2015 falling way short of the lofty goals eloquently expressed by Dr. King. The sheer volume of white police brutality exacted on African Americans is proof alone there is much work left undone.
Yet, recently I stumbled upon an interview that Anchee Minn gave on NPR’s Weekend Edition. Anchee Minn is the author of a book Red Azalea, a memoir of her early years in communist China and her escape from that society to America. Recently she has followed up Red Azalea with a book titled, Cooked Seeds, chronicling her life after leaving China and arriving in America.
At one point in the NPR interview Minn acknowledges her own struggle to shed the discriminatory attitude toward women in her culture.
Minn says, “My grandmother had bound feet. My mother, when I asked her about love, she gave me three words: Shame on you, because in my culture you’re not supposed to talk about it. Here, I could talk to my – my daughter can talk to me. I do see myself transforming. I broke down crying when I learned that she was a girl. I didn’t realize I was so corrupted, you know, by my culture and society. And now she prove me wrong. I’m just thrilled.” [1]
Minn was initially disappointed to give birth to a girl. Despite the fact that she physically escaped communist China she had not escaped the repressive views toward women held in not only her culture but by large swaths of the world. But her own daughter opened her heart and mind to the potential of all life.
To me the greater lesson is that entrenched ideas will not disappear overnight, regardless of the vigor of the protest and rally. But, entrenched ideas will ultimately disappear because subsequent generations will question previously held ideas, modify the implications of those ideas, and finally bury such antiquated ideas for a future that more closely resembles the
evolution of cultural norms.
Many of us want change now, and we should continue to campaign for societal shift, but in the moments we despair most that change is beyond our reach we should recall the four-generation journey of Minn’s family to a concept of gender equality. Further, we should recall that while Minn’s daughter is being raised in a more accepting society toward women, it was Anchee Minn who exemplified the one way in which we all have power, and that is to change ourselves.
Once in a great while we achieve something truly extraordinary, and this is of importance. But it is secondary and surely the byproduct of the numerous times we kick the rock down the road towards systemic change ultimately wrought by succeeding generations.
Featured image: http://www.sawtoothbooks.com/pages/books/13447/anchee-min/red-azalea-life-and-love-in-china
Concluding image: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-cooked-seed-anchee-min/1112934738?ean=9781596916982

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