Upon Obama’s election to the presidency, people turned out in droves to celebrate. Civil-rights activists of all persuasions declared that we had turned a new page in American history, and that the election was proof that America had “grown up” somehow. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech was recited, and Obama was hailed practically as a messiah. Dr. King worked hard to secure equal rights for all races during a time in which true racism thrived; today, unfortunately, his legacy is misused by those who take part in race-baiting and those who support illegal immigration. When I was a teenager, I read about King’s indiscretions and lost a great deal of respect for him. I’ve read more recently that those claims may be fabricated, at least to a certain degree. I once locked myself in my room and spent several days reading his speeches biographies. In so doing I learned a lot about the man that I never knew.
After his famed march from Selma to Montgomery (in Alabama, for the geographically challenged), he preached a sermon at a local church. Today that sermon is popularly referred to as “How Long, Not Long.” A particular phrase stuck out to me when I read it that many people don’t associate with King: “Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.”
Today, many people don’t want to think of King as the kind of nonviolent person who said something like that. People like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who were students at the time and worked with Dr. King, keep the ghost of racism alive by decrying every act against a black person–even legal acts–as racism. The six black kids who ambushed and beat a white student unconscious won a popularity that only certain minority groups can win, because cries of racism filled the air after their arrest and trial (never mind that they did commit a crime, and did it against a kid who really didn’t have anything to do with the noose controversy). Most of my black friends feel the way I do: that racism today is little more than an excuse to play the victim, as pop culture soundly rejects it in the here and now.
King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is widely regarded as one of the greatest in the history of American oratory. He made statements in that speech that were powerful, honest, and sometimes raw, but more often than not, those statements are ignored now by those who say “I have a dream.” I once listened to a black man I worked with take Dr. King’s words completely out of context to suit his needs, which at the time were to lay a guilt trip on one of our bosses for giving another guy–a white guy–the days off that both of them had requested. It made me sick to my stomach. I have a dream today, too, but it’s nothing like what you’d expect.
I have a dream…that Dr. King’s wish for equality will be honored, by black men as well as by white men, and that Hispanics and other races will stop using his legacy to validate criminal activity.
I have a dream…that the rule of law will one day be truly honored, and the good guys will win one for the home team.
I have a dream…that religion will give way to spirituality, and judgement will give way to freedom and civil debate rather than allowing the spiritually bankrupt to rule over America’s believers and tell them what to accept.
I have a dream…that racism will no longer be used as a crutch, that integrity and honor will become more mainstream, and that freedom will give us all the equality we know we deserve, regardless of the color of our skin (or our sexual orientation).
I have a dream, much like Dr. King’s, that every person, regardless of their race–including me–will truly be judged by the content of their character and not an “equal opportunity” law that forces people to allow certain missteps in order to appear diverse. I have a dream that diversity will be honest, not forced.
Booker T. Washington, another famous black man, said, “There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs–partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays.” This was said in 1911, long before Dr. King’s time. Washington was born into slavery, freed by the Thirteenth Amendment, and worked his way through college. He believed in abolishing Jim Crow laws and racism by working with supportive white people rather than against all white people. Later on, Martin Luther King, Jr. would take the same stand. We’ve forgotten the realities of these men who helped end segregation.
Were they alive today, they would not support amnesty for those who are here illegally. They, like me, would support those who have obeyed the rules and would honor those who have really worked to earn the right to be here, but they would not appreciate their legacies being used to cram the ideology of professional victimhood down the collective throats of America. Honor the work they did but be careful how you use them. Racism will always be alive to a certain degree; as human beings, there will always be a small sect of society that thinks that racism will make us happy. That does not mean that all white people are racists bigots who hate those who are different.
I have a dream…that terms like “racist,” “bigot,” “hatemonger” and “intolerant” will no longer roll off the tongue so easily, but that the tolerance demanded by so many will be shown to those they don’t agree with.