Fifty years ago, today, a King stood before the men, women and children of our nation and spoke of his dream.
For fifty years we have repeated the words of this King’s dream, waking up everyday hoping that this dream would become a reality. One day that this sweet land of liberty would let freedom ring for all of those whose dreams have been deferred. For fifty years, we the people, have held onto that King’s dream, clutching it tightly in our hands as we march towards the top of the mountain that he promised us we would reach…
We, as people, will get to the promised land. Different dream, different night, but same King. The same King that put down his prepared remarks on August 28, 1963 and spoke words that only his heart could write. In front of a statue of a short-lived man who history books would credit for ending slavery, he spoke of our destiny as united states. He spoke of our challenges as divided states. He spoke of a “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. spoke and we listened. Fifty years of listening. Fifty years realizing that we have triumphed and we have failed at realizing his dream. A dream he allowed to become our dream. Not just for black America, but for all America. As a white kid growing up before there was a black president, I wanted so desperately for America to be what King spoke of. But I knew as a white kid that if I wanted this dream I had to listen to other parts of his speech from 50 years ago that weren’t about a dream. They were about white people. Me. And how we had begun to realize that the destiny of white America is tied to the destiny of black America. A realization that white people’s freedom is “inextricably bound” to the freedom of black people.
Or the freedom of Latinos. Or the freedom of women. Or the freedom of the LGBTQ community. Or the freedom of immigrants. Or the freedom of the uneducated. Or the freedom of the un-insured. Or the freedom of the profiled. Or the freedom of the victims of violence. They must not walk alone. We must fight so that everyone has the same rights that many of us, white people, take for granted. At that point we will have realized the essence of Dr. King’s dream.
So, when innocent black children are killed by strangers, like Trayvon, Emmett and Jordan, white people have more work to do. When black unemployment rate has been at recession levels for 50 years, white people have more work to do. When 72 people are shot in Chicago in one weekend, white people have more work to do. When young black teenagers are stopped and frisked in New York City for no other reason than being black, white people have more work to do. When high school drop-out rates in black communities exceed 50%, white people have more work to do. There is no doubt that black America has their work cut out for them too, but if we don’t join them in their work, then none of us will ever be able to lay our heads down in the evening and truly dream.
So, we march on…