“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.”
Dr. King’s famous words will celebrate their 60th anniversary this August 28. Certain people love to use those words to suggest that laws that help Black people are an affront to the spirit of Dr. King, to the equality and rights he sought. They tell us that those words offend his dream. That we no longer need laws to help the advancement of Black people. That voting rights laws are no longer necessary. That affirmative action isn’t needed. That Title VII has served its purpose. That we are all equal. In fact, these rights are retreating and not becoming “equal.”
We’d all love to live a country and world in which the color of one’s skin is irrelevant (or at least most of us would), and in which all that matters is the content of one’s character. But we’re not there yet. Indeed, there are reminders of this sad reality all too often. Charlottesville. George Floyd. George Santos. Congress’s refusal to pass voting rights legislation. The SCOTUS affirmative action case. And on and on.
They tell us that “wokeness” is antithetical to the legacy of Dr. King. They are very, very wrong.
Today, as we pause to celebrate all that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for, hoped for, and fought for, let’s not fool ourselves into believing that we’ve achieved his dream. We have still not made good on the core promise of our nation that all are created equal. We’ve made great strides since Dr. King’s murder 55 years ago, but we’re not yet at the point at which all are judged by the content of their character, and many are still, at least in part, treated differently because of the color of their skin. When people tell us otherwise we cannot stay silent.
Thus, let me leave you with another quote from Dr. King: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I choose not to stay silent. What choice are you making?
* Image: New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Albertin, Walter, photographer., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons