As a white, suburban-born, 33 year-old whose roots were established in the upper Midwest, my perspective is not in hot demand when it typically comes to race issues. Yet forged by new relationships, new environments, and the blessings of a growing sense of discussion, I have grown in understanding and appreciation for the life and impact of Dr. King.
An African-American History class during my Sophomore year of college introduced me deeply to the realities of the lives of African-Americans throughout the years. As a sports fan, I was drawn to the work of Arthur Ashe in his 3-volume work, A Hard Road to Glory, and became enthralled with the Negro Leagues and its stars. I learned from their stories that “us” is more important than “I”. I learned my country’s history, its blemishes and outright failures to uphold justice.
Through the intervening years, I have been challenged to grow more aware and more engaged. I have been blessed to experience more of the vibrancy of African-American culture through my work in churches, schools, neighborhoods, and organizations. I have been honored to voice the spirituals of the plantation openly in choral arrangements, been blessed to engage the cadence of the pulpit that stems from black preachers of yesteryear, and been privileged to learn from professors, walk with colleagues, and teach students whose skin color would have been a separation only a half-century ago.
I, too, like Dr. King find power in the message of the Minor Prophets of Old Testament scripture. I long for justice to roll down, for eyes to be opened, and for humanity to regard one another with love and respect. But, unlike, Dr. King, I have never had to demonstrate, hold meetings, or protest in order to find my rights. I find relief that we have come so far since his horrific death, but recognize that we still have so far to go.
As a people it is important for us to respect all people. We certainly can disagree with others and still show them honor. We can live different faiths (or none at all) and still embrace our common humanity. We can wave the flags of many nations and still live in peace. If we are to truly honor the legacy of Dr. King, we must both learn and teach.
This morning, my wife and I sat down with our 5 year old to help explain to her that today wasn’t just a day off of school. Much more it was a day by which we can be thankful that courageous leaders in our nation’s history have fought against prejudice based on our outward appearance. We shared with her part of Dr. King’s iconic speech, which is 18 minutes well spent as we remember today.
I am not there yet, but I am on the journey.
Let us continue to be part of the dream…