Will Dr. King’s Dream Ever Come True?
Christopher W. R. Thurman
(20 December 2017)
The world knows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a Christian pastor and a nonviolent leader in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Research shows that he lived a faith filled adult life and practiced what he preached: truth and unconditional love. Dr. King used nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience, based on his faith and the peaceful principals of Mahatma Gandhi, to advocate for equality of the law for all races. According to the King Center website he always maintained “fidelity to his principals that men and women everywhere regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.”
In his famous I Have A Dream speech, King stated: “I have a dream that my four 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.” Personally and sadly, I do not think his dream will come to pass until people stop referring to themselves and others by race or racial slurs and start practicing the kind of love Dr. King was known for. I would argue that some individuals and groups that claim him as their champion do the opposite of what he taught.
Self-proclaimed, appointed, and elected leaders in this nation and in civil/social justice organizations must, since they are in the limelight, make a decision to refer to all people without mentioning race, period. And they should encourage their followers to do the same. As long as folks define themselves or others by race and racial slurs and refuse to love others as themselves, we will always have division.
The Atlanta mayoral race and the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum are two recent examples where leaders could be viewed as fostering division.
In her victory speech Atlanta Mayor-Elect Bottoms started off with a call for unity, as she declared to all in attendance that “We are Atlanta.” She told those that did not support her that she does want to work with them in the future, thus extending the olive branch. However, at the end of the speech she stated “black girl magic is real”-a meaningless, feel good statement which could be viewed as divisive. To either correct or cover herself, she then named both genders and several other races, adding that they too have “magic.” I do not see the need to even mention race once one is elected to represent a diverse constituency.
Georgia Congressional Rep. John Lewis, along with NAACP President Derrick Johnson, did not attend the recent opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum because President Trump, who was invited to speak, was in attendance. Lewis said he would not attend because of the President’s “hateful policies,” while Johnson referred to the President’s administration as having “divisive policies.” Neither cited any examples of what policies they were referring to.
Dr. King once said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Had Mrs. Bottoms acknowledged this, maybe she would have just kept to her original unifying message. And if Lewis and Johnson followed Dr. King’s teaching, they would have attended the museum ceremony with the President, regardless of policy differences. They would have looked like unifiers, as if they were there for something bigger than themselves. But they let pride get in their way.
I have had my own experiences with folks unaware of Dr. King’s teachings. As a law enforcement officer, I have been told several times that I was just trying to keep another race down while performing my job. Piffle. I follow a code of conduct, the rules, and the law. And I do not care for anyone who thinks they are above the law. Any good therapist will tell you that we are all unique individuals, with our own feelings, wants, and needs. So goes it with law enforcement; every situation is unique to itself and should be treated that way.
I believe the American Civil Rights Movement worked, thanks partially to Dr. King’s leadership. His legacy includes efforts to secure passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. These acts ended legal segregation and discrimination laws. However, our world is comprised of broken people; therefore, discrimination will always remain. If people would learn from Dr. King that we are all “members of the human family” we might eventually find healing.