Today we commemorate the life and accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr. His remarkable journey stopped cold by an assassin’s bullet. Although we have set aside a national day of commemoration I hardly believe we celebrate his life’s work and honor this hero in a way that truly honors. For most people today it most likely means a day off from work or school, no mail and no financial transactions, but that hardly is a testimonial to great change and profound impact. And I can easily make the argument that most Federal holidays hold any true weight and pause, as they are intended.
With that said, I do not want my writing today to be negative but there are certain observations that deserve discussion, and as the word guy I claim to be, I believe it’s time we have a different discussion than maybe you expect.
The “I Have A Dream” speech is one of the best known, beloved, and remembered speeches in the history of this great country. That single speech transcended mere issue of race to a greater idea of life and our expectations of it. Dreams are not saved for majorities nor are they simple tools of the wealthy and advantaged. Dreams, the higher ideas that our minds can see and our hearts do desire are responsible for every and any advancement society has ever known no matter where that society is. Dreams, the elixir of anyone who dares to allow themselves to think, are life affirming and can be life changing. Dreams, no matter their grandeur, are for some the only optimism they may ever know and the reality of achieving a dream releases people from old belief systems and shackled lives.
But dreams can also be a reminder of what has been left behind and what hasn’t been accomplished, sadly enough. I am being a realist and as Dr. King had a dream that was perfectly right I ask myself all too often if that dream he had was ever fulfilled. I sadly know it is not.
Issues of race still drive too many conversations in this country. Race, more specifically Black America, are better off today then they were 50 years ago but we have not as a society elevated our assimilated thinking or acted as a larger society in a way that truly represents acceptance, as if the majority has the right to grant anything to begin with. Humanity, as I understand it, is about the power of one. One people, one Constitution, one set of rules, and one society and under that definition we are not humane to all of the people who make up the plethora of faces, shapes, and colors of this country. We have not realized that equality is still anything more than an idea and we surely have not accepted differences, even differences as meaningless as the color as one’s skin, as just another of the things that make us who we are and nothing more than that.
I realize that there are a multitude of issues surrounding race in this country and Blacks are not the only race to experience the discrimination and prejudice of a mostly white society, no matter how the rules have changed. I realize that the higher, spiritual idea of humanity has never been fully accepted and that in my lifetime there will not be an acceptance of the scope that I personally crave. I get all of that perfectly.
The notion that we are one nation under God is hypocritical, as we are not as demonstrated by the very way society carries itself to this day. In the year 2013, that we still have major opportunities to have the first Black anything offends every sensibility I have. And I refuse to buy into the argument that the Black community must do more to change that and take a greater responsibility in their own progression. I don’t buy it for a minute and I don’t buy it because in secret back rooms all across corporate America and in plain site there are still too many people that hate the idea of Black’s in this country and with no foundational reason to have that belief it is clear, to me anyway, that as a society we have failed Dr. King’s dream in profound ways.
The question of how we do get beyond hatred and prejudice is a critical and important question, but I believe we have to answer another question first. That question could be a starting point to healing and affirming the idea of equality and that question, maybe even unanswerable, I’ll admit that, is: Who is to blame? And then the next question should be: How much longer can we carry our past as an excuse of why we torture ourselves in the present?
These are very basic questions, but no one ever has those discussions. This is not about reparations, this is not about undoing what cannot be undone, it is not about slavery in 2013, but what is about is humanity as its basic understanding. We have failed Dr. King and ourselves and until we agree to have the right discussion we will never ascend to the higher and great idea that all men are created equal.
So go on believing that by saying that “I have Black friends” that that somehow removes you from this discourse, because it does not, just as saying I have gay friends means you accept homosexuality. Not until the day where the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, is about a long lost time when, gasp, we actually treated all people differently and that that revelation is unthinkable will be have evolved in the way our founders dreamed and our God longs for.
Maybe I am naïve in my mission here, but I subscribe to the idea that society can accomplish anything it wants to accomplish and until it wants this victory it will not happen. You can challenge my premise but I believe my argument deserves an elevated discussion, although I am not hopeful.
I have a dream too and I’m not willing to let it go until my last breath. And although I am not prefect and I have my flaws and I am as broken as anyone, I still have a dream that one day….