Thursday, February 28, 2008
I have a Nightmare
As black history month draws to a close, we at the Kansas Citian stopped to reflect on the most famous words ever spoken in this great land about freedom and equality. We wondered what Martin Luther King Jr. might think about today's America, about an America where interracial marriages have become more common than odd, about an America where for the first time a black man has a real chance to become the president, about an America that has seen two black secretaries of state, black supreme court justices, and black mayors and governors, about an America that has seen black men rise from the poverty of the ghetto to the riches of the Hamptons, about our America.
This is what we came up with:
I am happy to join with you today in an America much different than when we last met.
Two score and five years ago, I stood before you and we spoke of the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. And while the black man has come a long way to breaking free of those chains, we still have far to go. Many among us have emerged from the shadows of poverty. From business men to legitimate contenders to the Presidency of the United States of America, we have found ourselves as and among the leaders in this great nation.
The words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the ones that promise that all men, black as well as white, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are more true now than ever.
America has come a long way towards fulfilling that promise. Many among us have taken the check we once came to Washington to cash and opened accounts in the American dream. We are home owners, entrepreneurs, and government leaders. There are still those who would seek to hinder our rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. They seek to chip away at the solid rock of brotherhood and rejuvenate the quick sands of racial injustice. Now is not the time to rest easy.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. The autumn of freedom and equality risks turning into a cold winter of resentment. The black man has finally achieved the citizenship rights he fought so hard to attain, yet the tranquility of America is at risk now more than ever.
There is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place some among us have been guilty of wrongful deeds. They have drunk from the cup of bitterness and hatred, their thirst for freedom replaced by the hunger for revenge.
We must remember to forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not degenerate into the reverse of what we struggled so hard against. There is a distrust of all white people that festers in our communities like a cancer. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom and still some among us would seek reparations from them for the sins of their fathers.
We have marched ahead and we must not turn back. We can never be satisfied as long as the black man is the victim of the of police brutality. We cannot be satisfied as long as the black man's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream for all among us.
We must be mindful. We must be mindful of those who teach our children to segregate themselves in the chains of multiculturalism. We must be mindful of those who would to this day give priority access to education and jobs based on the color of a man’s skin. We must be mindful of those who would water the seeds of resentment to watch them flourish into the tree of revenge.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. But, I now too have a nightmare.
I have a nightmare that this nation will ignore the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a nightmare that one day on the red hills of Georgia the great-grandsons of former slaves and the great-grandsons of former slave owners will no longer be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a nightmare that one day even the state of New York, a state that provides the heat to the American melting pot, will be transformed into separate enclaves of black, brown, yellow, and white.
I have a nightmare that my now grown children and their children will judge a person by the color of their skin and not by the content of their character.
I have a nightmare today.
I have a nightmare that one day, out in Illinois, with its senator having a real chance at being the first black president; one day right there in Illinois, little black boys and black girls won’t be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls or Hispanic boys and Hispanic girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a nightmare today.
I have a nightmare that one day every land shall be split, every hill and mountain shall made taller, the rough places will be made rougher, and the crooked places will be made more crooked, and the glory of the Lord shall be reviled.
This is our fear. This is the fear that I go back to the South with. With this fear we will fuel the dieing embers of hope. With this fear we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this fear we will realize that we are able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we are free this day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to remain a great nation we must heed these fears. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to remind ourselves that all of God's children, black men, brown men, and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants, Catholics, and athiests, are able to join hands and sing in the words of the spiritual, "the flag still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away. And I’m proud to be an American."