It is Martin Luther King Day and the radio hosts play a clip from his speech. Listening to it I had a thought that I have not heard expressed in the media. So I came home and searched for the clip they played.
Listen to it. Read it. Then consider what comes after.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
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.
I have a dream today.”
It has been more than fifty years, so the fact that we have made so much progress should not be a surprise. But the media’s never-ending focus on things that divide us have largely obstructed the fact that so much of Dr. King’s dream has come true.
Today, more than ever before, his dream that we should be guided by the words of our Declaration of Independence and that all men are created equal is accepted nearly universally across this country. Every group with a complaint or a desire for attention will complain that they aren’t being treated fairly, but between our legislative and judicial systems we have mechanisms in place to protect our people and to ensure that we live as closely to that truth as possible.
Today in Georgia, as in Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and elsewhere, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners are not only sitting at the table of brotherhood, they are worshipping together, living together, working together, and even governing together. While gaps still exist in the educational opportunities that are available to many of these sons and daughters–and those education gaps lead to economic gaps–it is more often than not the sons and daughters of the former slaveowners who advocate for increased educational choice and parental control to free the children trapped in failing school systems. Dr. King would likely appreciate their efforts and wonder aloud at how those who stand in opposition to these reforms could claim to do so on behalf of the children and their interests.
Today, the content of one’s character matters far more than the color of one’s skin in most of this great country. America is far more multi-cultural and its population far more diverse. You still find segregation in the ugly tribal mentality that dominates our most decayed urban centers or the prison yard, but that mentality is largely confined to those areas. Today there are opportunities for everyone’s children that would fill Dr. King’s heart with gratitude and hope.
In the more than fifty years that have passed since he spoke those great words, our nation has come so far that we have been able to retire affirmative action with the popular support of a people united behind the shared belief that discrimination on the basis of the color of someone’s skin is wrong, no matter the circumstances.
Not every one of Dr. King’s dreams have come true of course. He said “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” and as of today we have not yet seen it. Moreover, too many who would claim to be supporters of Dr. King would deny the existence of the Almighty altogether as they seek to drive Him from the public square and treat His words and teachings as some sort of fringe extremism that should be banned entirely.
But on the whole, America has come a very long way since he spoke those words. And America deserves credit for doing so. Even if you don’t hear about it very much from the media.