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
I still share this dream today. And I think as a nation we still fall down when judging people not by the content of their character but the color of their skin. Or the shape of their eyes, or which God they believe in, or if they believe in God, or which gender they prefer, or the contents of their wallet, or their political leanings. The list goes on.
I grew up in a chaotic home, but my free spirited mother did not teach us the usual prejudice at her knee. She was is a feminist so we heard our share of man bashing. I suffer for my fear and mistrust of men to this very day as a result. She did her best.
My temporary fear of black people in my city did not come until I went to the high school and experienced forced busing. It was a brutal and failed experiment.
I have always thought it rather odd and abusive that the adults at the time did not force adults together to learn to like each other in their office, church, or congress. They experimented with their children instead. Forcing people together doesn’t make them like each other. In fact the only place I can think of where adults of different ethnic backgrounds are forced to cohabit ate is in jail. Not exactly conducive to a love thy brother atmosphere. Not teaching hatred and fear of differences to begin with works much better.
This is the very same school where I learned that political protests are “evil” too. My girlfriends and I wore black arm bands to school in protest of friends and brothers killed in Viet Nam. We spend weeks in detention after school as punishment for our unpatriotic behavior. It took decades for me to figure out what exactly I did wrong. Hadn’t we just read in history class that very morning that our country we was so great because we were allowed to speak up about what bothered us?
I remember where I was when the news broke that Martin Luther King was killed. My boyfriend and I were in West Dallas. At the time it was an all black neighborhood. We were eeking out a living selling peep holes door to door. We walked up to a door and if they were willing and had 10 dollars, we drilled a hole in their door and installed a shiny brass peep hole. They were happy we were happy. Free enterprise at work.
One late afternoon I noticed that people were coming out of their houses and milling around, leaning on cars, talking in low voices. Women were crying. I asked what was going and heard the news. I was just as shocked and grieved as anyone else. I felt no fear, only sadness. We were hugging and crying together. Boyfriend and I decided to call it a day and went home.
Later telling this story people were appalled. “You could have been killed!” What? “There were riots, you are lucky you weren’t lynched.” Little ole skinny no account me would be lynched? I was 16 years old and vaguely aware of what a riot was. But that day I felt no fear only sadness. Perhaps it was because at the time there were only shock and grief at the murder. It had not turned to anger yet. I like to think it was because these people listened to the words of Martin Luther King and believed that violence is rarely the answer.
The text of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech is available at USConstitution.net Please take a few minutes to read it. It will make your day.