Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50 Years Later & It's Still a Dream

I come from a tradition (Presbyterian) that strongly believes that words have power, that the act of speaking itself creates reality.  And so today, 50 years on from when Dr. King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and spoke into our past as well as our future, his words still move, still challenge, still sting and still encourage.

If we white folk read or listen to Dr. King's speech today as if it were an interesting historical note with no relevance to who or what we are today, we remain part of the problem.  Until we can hear these words speaking into our present, there truly is no hope for our future, for much work remains to be done before the dream becomes reality.

When we would say that there's no money for reparations or to right the wrongs of centuries, I hear Dr. King's voice reminding us:  But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.

When we would urge patience or more waiting for just the right time, from 50 years past, Dr. King's voice chastises:  We have come . . . to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.

When we take what is and call it good enough because it isn't happening to us, Dr. King reminds with biblical warrant:  . . . we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

When we cynically appropriate Dr. King's words when speaking of his own children*, 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, we disregard the words surrounding his dream about the sweltering injustice of Mississippi . . . the vicious racism of Alabama . . . the not-yet-realized reality of former slave and former slave-owner descendants sitting down to table together . . . When we descend into such ashes-in-the-mouth-that-knows-no-shame badness that would steal the dream and crush it to bits that shame is too small a word to describe, our cries of justice fulfilled ring hollow even in our own ears as desperation and self-interest seek to advance themselves still on the backs of others.

. . . when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that 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!"

Isn't that a day worth speeding up?

Today at 3.00 p.m., join your voice to the bells ringing throughout the country . . . ringing to remind us . . . ringing to call us back to our best selves . . .ringing out the possibility of a dream still not yet realized . . . ringing us back to the urgency to know that the dream is here and it is now and it is necessary . . . 

*In striving to end Affirmative Action and other similar programs to advance opportunities for minorities in the United States, particularly those of color, certain politicians quote Dr. King's reference to his own children as 'evidence' that Dr. King opposed or would have opposed Affirmative Action.  It is scandalous and they know it, for the fact is that we still live in a nation where the children and grand-children of Dr. King are judged by the color of their skin and that has nothing to do with Affirmative Action.  

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