I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
-Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream, 1963.
Finally. I get a day off work. I get time to spend with my family, maybe do a little shopping, watch some TV, and just bum around. That’s what most people do on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While there will still be some of that, I decided to make today a day of reflection. How far have we come in the last 50 years since the “I Have a Dream” speech?
By comparison of then and now, Blacks and minorities today are doing more than they have ever done. We have our own homes, businesses and even the United States presidency. Yet, thre are still inequalities and injustices everywhere you turn. I want to take three principles from Dr. King’s speech that I feel will help us make his dream a reality.
The Tranquility of Gradualism
1. “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened in the 1970s and 80s. Many Blacks became apathetic toward the civil rights movement and satisfied with minor victories against social injustice. After King’s death, we went from a state of activism to gradualism, accepting minor reforms as they came. Throwing a program at a community ridden with poverty and violence is like putting band aid on a stab wound. We have allowed the current welfare system to rob us of our dignity, self-worth and passion. King advocated that all would have access to the American Dream which is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In many ghettos across America that pursuit of happiness turned into pursuit of the materialistic. “By any means necessary” as quoted by Malcolm X, turned killing your brother in order to gain respect or robbing your grandmother to feed to your addiction. Let us do away with the gradualism that nullifies our soul and resurrect the passion of change deep within.
A Return to Dignity and Discipline
2. “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”
When injustice occurs there always the propensity to become angry and that anger often results in violence, hatred or bitterness. In the struggle, we must maintain our dignity and self-respect. Furthermore, discipline for the journey ahead is necessary to secure to victory. We can’t cry injustice were there is no discipline. We must stay focused and consistent even in the face of adversity.
“The Greatest of These is Love” (1 Cor. 13:13)
3. “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
Above all, we must commit to love each other and all God’s creation. We must not become so bitter that we cannot reach across racial lines to work with and help our brother. Martin’s dream was not just that we would have Black-owned this and that, but that we would be able to work alongside other races for the common good. We need to appreciate the diversity of humanity and the diversity within the Black race. Therefore, we should stop pointing out the differences in skin color, eye color, hair texture etc. Let us embrace Dr. King’s dream to judge one another by the content of our character and not our appearance.
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