MLK DAY: Aurora State Rep. Janet Buckner emotionally recalls why silence is unacceptable

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    AURORA | Highlighting an powerful message from Martin Luther King Jr. last week — that silence is betrayal — Aurora Rep. Janet Buckner emotionally recalled on the House floor racism she faced at her local swimming pool as a young girl.

    Buckner told her colleagues in the Legislature that her granddaughter asked to go swimming, and Buckner said she couldn’t go with her because she has a fear of water.

    “The reason I do is because when I was a young girl, I wasn’t allowed to go to the swimming pool with the Caucasian kids because I was told if I wanted to swim, I could come the night before they cleaned the pool. Before they changed the water,” Buckner said.

    Her parents, who Buckner said were not rich, offered to build a pool in the family’s yard. But Buckner knew they couldn’t afford that.

    When Lawrenceburg, Indiana, finally integrated its swimming pools, Buckner said she took lessons. But on the day she was to receive a certificate, as she was halfway across the pool, two white boys called her the N-word.

    “I stopped swimming. I went down to the bottom of the pool, and I almost drowned,” she said, fighting back tears.

    That feeling never goes away, she added, making the reason why talking about inequality and racism even more crucial.

    The resolution, which both chambers passed, honors the birthday of King. Several members from all over the political spectrum spoke on behalf of the resolution, echoing the importance of what King stood for and the relevance it has today.