On this the official observance of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, I am hearing media comments regarding the correlation of the holiday with Barack Obama’s inauguration calling it “the realization of Dr. King’s vision”. Is it? Was the election of a black president really Dr. King’s dream?
According to a CNN poll, many feel that way.
“The poll found 69 percent of blacks said King’s vision has been fulfilled in the more than 45 years since his 1963 “I have a dream” speech”
I guess my thought is that people who are satisfied with the election of an African American to the presidency are setting their sights too low. Now this election does reflect a man elected more on his merit than his race–that people of all races supported this candidate and came together with a common goal. That seems to be part of the dream realized but there is much more to do.
Our churches are still segregated. Our children still hear their grandparents and parents use derogatory and disrespectful language toward a variety of races and economic classes. Jokes are still told. Many who don’t like the jokes may comment, “oh you’re so bad” with a wink and a giggle. And so on.
There is progress. My daughter takes for granted that her 2nd grade class is diverse. She can’t comprehend that blacks and whites used to use separate bathrooms and drinking fountains or that a 15 yr old girl was arrested for not giving her seat to a white man. I wish she could be blissfully ignorant of the past so it wouldn’t enter her mind there are options to treat people poorly. Yet I know it is important to know your history to avoid repeating it.
I believe race relations at its core is a heart issue not a political one. Sadly our hearts have not risen to the task of love and for the protection of others we have had to legislate our actions. So perhaps this next generation can organize movements of compassion and mercy and selflessness. Maybe we can use our resources of education and religion (no, I’m not going to disclaim the word, get over it) to serve each other out of love and perhaps that contagion will spread faster than “you have to or else there is legal ramification”.
Followers of Jesus, go first. Perhaps the prayer of Jesus to his Father in John 17: “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” can be a catalyst to vigorously pursue the dream of the man we honor today:
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every
village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we
will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children,
black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and
Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of
the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God
Almighty, we are free at last.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963