Those of you have been following my column have probably noticed that I sometimes like to point out what the real meaning of certain holidays is. Well, this time I'm pretty sure everyone knows why we observe the holiday that comes up on Monday, January 19, but I think too many people take it for granted. On that day we will commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As most everyone knows, Dr. King dedicated his life to achieving true freedom and equality for blacks in the United States. What many don't know is that Dr. King was actually working for the true freedom and equality of all people. He knew that, if one of us is not free, none of us is truly free. Yes, I know that slavery in the U.S. was abolished in the 19th century, but those of us who were alive back in the 1950s and 60s remember when blacks specifically were not afforded the same rights and privileges as whites. Things were worse in some places than others, but bigotry and inequality were virtually everywhere.
While Dr. King was strong and unwavering in his dedication to his cause, he was equally strong in advocating nonviolent, peaceful methods.
On August 28, 1963, he gave a speech in which he said, "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 one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. 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. I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today."
April 4, 1968 was a sad day for all humankind as Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Martin may have been killed on that day but his goal was right and thus could not be killed. His followers of all races continued the fight and things began to change.
Had he lived, I think Dr. King would be pleased with what I see much of the time. When I attend school functions I see black and white youth playing together on the same field or court in team sports. I see white and black adults sitting intermixed in the bleachers. I see black and white youth who are obviously good friends enjoying each other's company in the stands.
Other than in museums or in the possession of some warped individuals, "colored only" and "whites only" signs just don't exist in the United States. Mixed race families don't even turn heads anymore.
Now, I'm not foolish enough to say that there is not still work to be done and that inequality and racism no longer exist but, with a black president, many black politicians, lots of rich black athletes and actors, I think Dr. King would sit with me at a basketball game and say, "My dream is alive."
Yes, it is, Dr. King. I wish you were here to see the progress we've made, and to help guide us into the future. The world is a richer place because you were here, and a poorer place because you are gone.
Happy Martin Luther King Day.