In Martin Luther’s now famous speech he stated:
“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.”
When we reflect on our nation as it currently stands we must ask ourselves has his dream from 1963 been realized?
The answer in my opinion is “No”. Sure we’ve made progress from that day to this, but that little progress has fooled many into thinking his dream has been realized.
Some will ask then: “What more is needed to be done?”
The answer, as I see it is by way of connection, comradery, and consideration.
Connection- we must get outside of ourselves and connect through sharing our stories and engaging in each other’s lives. Whether black, white, Latino, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim male, female or other we cannot know each other without connection. Knowing each other’s story allows us to empathize, better understand and no longer demonize one another. John Perkins, an amazing man who walked through injustice as a black man gives us three R’s with which we can follow in order to live our belief of equality. The first R is Relocation. This means we actively seek ways to relocate ourselves from what is comfortable, i.e. people like us and relocate to areas with people different than ourselves. My wife and I felt compelled to move into the Northside of Pittsburgh to expose and connect ourselves and our children to the lives of people we may not have normally bumped into. It was a conscience effort of relocation. What happens to our neighborhood happens to us, so we have stake in the lives of those around us. Perkins realizes that, Living the belief means sharing the suffering and pain of others, and relocation transforms “you, them, and theirs, to “we, us, and ours.” When we connect with and purposefully relocate to people who are unlike us and those experiencing injustice will we be able to truly empathize.
Comradery- Connection is not enough. We must stand up against injustice. This is not just a Facebook post talking about injustice, but actually putting action where our posts are. We can’t post a nice quote from MLK and feel as though we’ve done our “civic duty”. We must embody our beliefs. When we see injustice, we must call it out. This isn’t always popular, nor safe but it must be done. In comradery we stand up for one another. We must do this in a way that is heard however. Martin Luther King Jr. believed in civil disobedience, not outright disobedience. When our goodness and love can condemn unjust people bringing darkness and hate, then we will win the day. MLK stated: “Hate can not drive out hate, only love can do that.” The second R from Perkins is Reconciliation. Through comradery reconciliation can happen! This process requires breaking down every racial, ethnic, or economic barrier to opportunity, such that people can come together to solve the problems of their shared community, because they are in connection.
Consideration- We must consider one another in our daily lives. When we post something on Facebook, or speak about people of different backgrounds, we must be considerate. Too often, we speak without consideration and cause further division, even if we seek to live for unity. We must also consider the third R that Perkins gives- Redistribution. How are we leveraging our privilege? This is for all of us. There are areas of privilege that we can all exercise by way of redistribution. Maybe it’s wealth. Maybe it’s jobs. Maybe its simply the ability to give voice to those who have been silenced. Ignoring the fact we have privilege and then not using it is harmful. MLK once said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”. Again, here, he is not talking about simply words, but action. Actions speak louder than words. Moving forward, we need to act in a civil way. What might this look like in the life of a student?
Example: When a white student sees a black person standing up for their rights but the people around them are ignoring their pleas, standing up and speaking out then and there. When a professor speaks ignorantly or rudely about someone of a different ethnicity, religious persuasion or sexual orientation, stand up and speak out. Even if your grade suffers as a result, you’ve stood up against it. This again must be done civilly.
It is my hope that we can honor Dr. King and live the change he dreamed of. We can, in our generation live our belief through connection, comradery and consideration and see the change this “living out the dream” can create.