This Wednesday will mark the 50th anniversary of the delivery of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “I Have a Dream.” I’d like to think that if I were alive at the time and had the means, I would have been in Washington when he first said those words. I cannot think of a more influential speech delivered in that century.
However, a recent speech has struck me.
In President Obama’s speech after the George Zimmerman verdict, he talked about how it’s not uncommon for a black man to be followed in a department store, or for him to hear the click of car door locks while walking down the street, or see a woman clutch her purse nervously when entering an elevator. I respect and understand the point the president made with those statements. But the whole while I’m thinking:
Why does this have to be about race?
I honestly wouldn’t think twice about my purse if I were in an elevator with a black man, unless the waistline of his pants hung down past his butt. A white man dressed the same way would make me just as nervous. I’m not saying that all men should dress in a coat and tie, but to at least wear their clothes the way in which they were designed and not in a way that emulates criminals in prison.
What makes me the most sad is that there is still this racial stigma 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years after the March on Washington. President Obama’s words stung me. It really hurts that a black man would think he makes me nervous just because my skin happens to be white. I do my best to try to get to know someone before I pass any kind of judgment on them.
No one can choose the color of their skin. So why would a black man who chooses to wear his clothes properly make me nervous?
I don’t know what happened between between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin that day. Maybe no one will truly ever “know.” It is not my place to judge. All I can do is to pray for all involved. But what I do know is that they both had/have the same color blood as the rest of us. And I believe that they both have the same Divine Judge as the rest of us. Shouldn’t that be enough to make us all equals?
I’m not a great speaker as Dr. King was. I’m not a great writer either. But I have a dream that one day I can be influential. I have a dream that I can help people remember that no matter our race, our destinies are tied up and our freedoms are inextricably bound. I have a dream that I can, by example, illustrate how no one should be judged by the color of their skin, be it white or black, but by the content of their character.
How has Dr. King’s speech inspired you?