Martin Luther King Jr. is among the most favorably remembered figures in American history. At times he reaches an almost mythic status, a heavenly figure sent to trumpet the melodies of equality and freedom.
In his most legendary speech, he spoke the legendary words, “I have a dream.” He spoke them again and again, with an urgency and eloquence that still rings in our ears today.
I believe, however, the messages Dr. King expounded upon in his I Have A Dream speech have been dulled and marginalized since the 1960s. That’s very understandable given the significant strides America has made in race relations.
We have elected a black president, passed legislation aimed at racial equality and have, I optimistically assert, largely created an America where, “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers,” as Dr. King said in his I Have a Dream speech.
However, Dr. King’s messages seem to be diluted and simply categorized as a ‘race speech,’ that is, ‘white people and black people should get along.’ There are certainly multiple references that King makes to the black-white dichotomy in race relations, yet he doesn’t restrict his message to simply that.
When we consider the legacy of Dr. King, I find it imperative that we take his overarching message of unity to heart.
After all, he concludes his magnificent speech with a longing for the day when, “black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles,
Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands…”
I say all of this to simply point out that King’s message remains relevant today. We are now living in a time when Muslim Americans are disproportionately targeted in hate crimes, gay children are tormented in their own schools and women are marginalized in our most well respected institutions.
It is worth pointing out that the famous orator explicitly mentions none of those groups. But the injustices those groups notoriously suffer are no less real than the infamous suffering black Americans spent centuries enduring – indeed, in some ways, continue to endure.
If we truly esteem Dr. King’s messages as much as most of us claim too, then surely we should back those who suffer at the hand of injustice.
Even as I sit writing, I wonder if Dr. King would support homosexuals in their struggle for civil rights. Surely, it is debatable as he preached tolerance. Yet we cannot forget that King was a Reverend, a conservative Christian who believed in the divine authority of the Bible.
The New Black Magazine contributes by stating, many “will point to the fact that one of King’s top advisers and organizers for the March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, was an openly homosexual man as proof positive that King was in favor of homosexual marriage.
The reality is, this example merely shows us that King was in favor of showing an attitude of love towards all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Surely, that is the defining lesson we should take away from King, the sacrosanct nature of love.
I believe it would be worthwhile for us to reconsider what King would have to say about our current world. Specifically, we should remember how passionately he campaigned against social injustice and contemplate if we believe that passion would still be as strong if the victims were those of today.
By doing this, we can bring ourselves closer to a day when Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ostensibly quixotic “Dream,” is simply an observation of the way things are.