Two score and eighteen years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his renowned I Have A Dream speech. Fifty-eight years later Americans have lost sight of what he declared that sweltering day as he stood proudly in the shadow of President Lincoln’s memorial.
Sadly, Dr. King was cut down before he could see even part of his dream come to fruition.
Fifty-eight years later, we see men of color sitting down with their white brothers to break bread, to pray, to discuss plans for the future of our nation.
Fifty-eight years later, ‘White’s Only’ signs have been eliminated.
Fifty-eight years later, forced segregation is a memory.
I believe Dr. King would have rejoiced and praised his God November 4, 2008 when a black man, Barak Obama won the presidency of these United States of America. Were he still with us, he would have stood gratified on January 20, 2021 when a black woman, Kamala Harris, took the office of Vice President of the country he loved.
However, Dr. King’s dream is still not even close to being realized.
Former President Donald Trump used as his campaign slogan “Keep America Great” and vowed throughout his term in office to “make America great again”. However, you cannot make a country great again, when it was never great to begin with.
Dr. King averred that for America to be a great nation, we must first have equality for all people regardless of race, creed, etc. Freedom must ring true from every part of this country for her to be a Great Nation.
Yes, America has been mighty, but not great.
The United States has been declared The Great American Melting Pot. It was a country where anyone could come seeking the American Dream – FREEDOM! People came to these shores seeking manumission and found, instead, a land of bigotry. Even after forced segregation was eliminated, groups began self-segregating.
True freedom can have no bounds. There cannot be true freedom for blacks when Asians are not free. There can be no true freedom for men when women are not free. There can be no true freedom for Christians when Muslims are not free.
People have been fighting for freedom in the United States since the first Europeans arrived and began their attempts to eliminate the native nations already residing here.
July 1927, two years before Dr. King was born, a black woman and her band were performing a blues concert in a tent in the Deep South when a man approached her and advised her to sneak out the back and run away to hide. The Ku Klux Klan was en route to kill her for being a black woman and performing in the south. Bessie Smith refused to run away. Instead, she let it be known to the crowd what was happening and proceeded to march through the masses gathered and straight into the path of the Klan. Most of those in the tent followed her to see what she was going to do; others did run out the back and into hiding.
Ms. Smith, a black, bisexual female blues singer stood up to the hooded men who came to do her mortal harm. She refused to back down, sent the cowards on their way and returned to finish her concert.
Mr. King believed his dream could be realized without violence. It breaks my heart when I watch movies and television programs or listen to music by black artists and see a race of people being depicted as trying to, as Dr. King said, “satisfy their thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred”. Dr. King did not want this for his people, but it is seen far too often his people being violent and lashing out against the freedom they desire.
Somewhere along the line the dream became blurred. The dream was for equality for all. Today, the demonstrations I see displayed show people believing that equality means showing the others you are better than they are. When you have any who are in the minority, you do not have equality. When there are those who feel they are superior, equality is lost in the mire.
We can learn a lot from Rodgers and Hammerstein. In their musical, Oklahoma!, at the end of the song The Farmer And The Cowman, Aunt Eller advises, “I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else, but I’ll be danged if I ain’t just as good!” See everyone as you see yourself. The major religions of the world teach what is known as The Golden Rule, ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you”.
Hatred is a learned behavior; it is not in us when we are born. Again, Rodgers and Hammerstein teach us this in the movie South Pacific, in their song Carefully Taught. Once we start teaching the new generations to accept each other, we can begin to stop fearing what we don’t understand. We live in an age of enlightenment and knowledge. We have the capability to learn about those we do not understand. Finding understanding will bridge the gap and ease the fear that breeds hatred.
It takes one; one person, in one home. Believe that there can be equality and true freedom for all; educate yourself and your family. Then take your neighbor by the hand and show you have understanding and acceptance. Your neighbor will reach to his neighbor and the education will spread through a community, a town, a city, a state, a nation. Then, and only then, will America be a great nation.
This will spread beyond the borders of the United States and light up the globe, freeing a world enslaved. When a King/Queen, President, Emir will go and sit down to break bread with the lowest and poorest of peasants in their realm, not to be seen as being gracious, but because they can, we will be achieving the fullest parts of Dr. King’s dream.
Take hold of the dream and visualize it for a nation and for the world.