Tomorrow, we take pause to remember Martin Luther King, Jr...to some of us, it is a solemn day of "remembering" a time not so long ago when injustice was the rule in our country...to some of us, it's just another paid, government holiday when our mail will not be delivered. And still, to some, it is a day of reckoning...a day to tally the balance sheet and determine if the "dream" Martin Luther King spoke so fondly of has EVER been realized in this country...HAVE we become a country who honors those five, simple words in it's constitution: ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL?
I look at my country today and I worry. I worry about the inordinate amount of young, black men institutionalized in our prisons, where African American skin outnumbers any other race by nearly a 50% margin ( United States - Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs ). I look at the poverty levels in America, with the realization in 2003 alone, nearly 24.4% of Black Americans were living below the poverty level ( Census Bureau says 1.3 million more Americans in poverty - Aug. 26, 2004 ). I observe the high school drop out rates in America and note 13.1% of all races of high school drop outs in 2000 were young, black Americans ( Dropout Rates in The United States: 2000 - Table 3 - Status dropout rates and number and distribution of dropouts of 16- thro... ). It is because of these statistics I worry Mr. King's "dream" may still be merely a cloud in the sky.
Most of us only recall the famous words of his monumental speech on August 28, 1963..."I have a dream", or his quotation from what he called a "great Negro spiritual"..."Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last." Some of us are too young to remember the speech at ALL and have only read it in text form (I would be one of those "some of us"). Some of us are too young to even recall segregation and can not imagine what an "all white" or "all black" school would be like...but it happened here...on American soil...to our American people.
HAVE we become a country where there is a practice of living our constitution by which "All men are created equal"? DO we treat each other with respect and kindness regardless of the color of our skin, our sex or sexual preference, our disabilities, our religious choices, our languages, our differences? I worry...
There is a paragraph from Mr. King's famous speech which, if taken out of context, STILL addresses so many of the struggles we as a people face today in America, and not just Black Americans. And I am certainly NOT trying to distract from the struggles of African Americans on this sacred day...but we "Americans" have a long way to go before ANY dream is realized in this country. We, as a people, can still learn from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
"But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."
It's a shame MLK wasn't whispering THIS part of his speech in the ears of our leaders when America began our "War On Terror"...just a thought...