MLK Day

by Patricia L. Hamilton 

On a day designed to remind us
how far we’ve come-
one report announcing

Latinos will be the majority
in California
two months from now,

another report revealing
forty-nine percent of black men
are arrested by age twenty-three-

I sit in a conference room
at a college in Tennessee
with two earnest parents,

explaining the ways a degree in writing
could lead to employment for their son
after graduation

although no one can predict
the future, and who knows
what the next five years will bring.

The mother leans forward
with an anxious glance at her son
and adds, “Especially

since he’s a white male,”
as if that were a disadvantage
in a city that did not fully satisfy

a federal mandate
to integrate its schools
for more than four decades.

And in the pause that follows
as I ponder her assumptions
and sources of information,

I comprehend
just how far
we still have to go.

Patricia L. Hamilton is a professor of English at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, where she has resided with her husband for 13 years. She received her Ph. D. from the University of Georgia, and her work has recently appeared in Connecticut River Review, Broad River Review, Big Muddy, The Cumberland River Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, and The Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee. Her first volume of poetry, The Distance to Nightfall, was published by Main Street Rag last summer. 

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