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Reflections on yesterday's holiday... - The Rancho Commons
Note to self: no whining, no slacking
aspiring2live
aspiring2live
Reflections on yesterday's holiday...
I'm not a big fan of Martin Luther King, Jr, but I acknowledge his importance in the history of blacks seeking equality. I grow weary of hearing "I have a dream..." every year around this time, and the hammering of "Black History Month." My main reasons for this are because I feel even many of the most successful black people in our country hide behind alleged inequality as an excuse for whatever social ills they propagate. As an example, I'll never forget a few years back hearing Ja Rule, a young black rap artist who has probably already spent more money than my family of four will ever earn in their lifetimes, speaking in an interview on television. I paraphrase, but I'm very close on this...

      Oh yeah, I still struggle. As long as you're a black man in America, you're going to struggle.

Give me a break! It is precisely this bias of perceived injustice held by many blacks that keeps them in a state of dissatisfaction, in my view. I wonder if he refers to the struggle of traversing his vast estate? Or the struggle of picking which limo he should ride in? Struggle!

I agree with what MLK said in his "I have a dream" speech, though in retrospect history has demonstrated he was unable to live by some of his own words. This, we have learned, is common for powerful, important people. I think of Kennedy, in MLK's day, and Clinton most recently when I offer what, for me, is the most significant quote from that famous speech.

"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 think we've come a long way from the prejudice and racism of those days, but I think we've lost permanent ground when it comes to the content of men's character. Would to God the latter was not so.

Be that as it may, I have learned that the main reason we so rarely hear this speech (or see it written) in its entirety is because the King family controls the copyrights, and they charge fees for its use, even to schools. I think it is a travesty that they would deem the money they make from this speech more important than the distribution of its message. For that reason, I provide you with a link where you can hear it and read it. And, I also provide you with a free, unauthorized copy of the entire speech, in the interest of spreading the message...



I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But 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, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

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!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and 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."²

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with 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 be a great nation, this must become true.

 

                And 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 snow-capped 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.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

                Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!³

 

¹ Amos 5:24 (rendered precisely in The American Standard Version of the Holy Bible)

² Isaiah 40:4-5 (King James Version of the Holy Bible). Quotation marks are excluded from part of this moment in the text because King's rendering of Isaiah 40:4 does not precisely follow the KJV version from which he quotes (e.g., "hill" and "mountain" are reversed in the KJV). King's rendering of Isaiah 40:5, however, is precisely quoted from the KJV.

³ At: http://www.negrospirituals.com/news-song/free_at_last_from.htm

 





This is a link to a Washington Post article on this subject.
4 aspirations -{}- aspire with me
Comments
caramaea From: caramaea Date: January 18th, 2006 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)
"Oh yeah, I still struggle. As long as you're a black man in America, you're going to struggle."

I think he's referring to discrimination in the form of stereotypes, although I have no idea what it means to be a black person, male or female, rich or poor in America. But I do know what it is like to be stereotyped because of race, sex, religion, body type and socioeconomic status. We've all been down that road. I don't think being black is a prerequisite to struggle... although some people bring it down on themselves harder than others, if you know what I mean.
aspiring2live From: aspiring2live Date: January 18th, 2006 03:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think being black is a prerequisite to struggle...

Precisely my point. We ALL struggle, NOT because we are old/young, black/white/other, thin/heavy, whatever/whatever!

What bothers me is the dichotamous approach of bemoaning one's own station in life in spite of the fact that it is a station of wealth and success that few in this country attain. (In the case of "famous, wealthy" blacks [or anyone] who whine about inequality and "struggle.")

What bothers me is that people like George Washington Carver, MLK, Rosa Parks, Booker T. Washington, etc., KNEW what racism and struggle really meant. Yet, they created their own successes out of a desire, a need for change, and it benefited EVERYone, not just blacks. That seems to be largely missing from the entire black culture today. That attitude, not of "give me things to make us even because I'm a minority," but of accomplishing what you set out to accomplish in spite of whatever setbacks you encounter.

"Start where you are with what you have, knowing that what you
have is plenty enough.". ---Booker T. Washington.
brknconfidents From: brknconfidents Date: January 18th, 2006 08:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very nice post and very well said! For the record, I have had this speech saved on my computer for several years in both audio and text form because of, as you said, the message.
aspiring2live From: aspiring2live Date: January 20th, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I surprised even myself posting about MLK day in my LJ. It's a great message and I'm sorry to see it continue to go unheeded in many ways.
4 aspirations -{}- aspire with me