Reflections on the ‘Dream’ of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Dennis Jamison 8/27/19
On August 28, 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now famous “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Approximately 250,000 people attended. It was quite an historic event, and was part of the larger March on Washington organized by several organizations of black Americans. They were attempting to draw attention to the discrimination, physical mistreatment, and racist policies that existed in the Deep South. Such conditions persisted from the end of the Civil War. Almost 100 years later, the rights of black citizens in the Deep South had still been denied through state institutionalized racism. Many Americans were moved when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial and shared his 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 Dr. King spoke those words the impact of their significance resonated with citizens of all races. His was an incredible dream of racial harmony. In fact, of the many words that have been shared by Martin Luther King, Jr., that specific segment is perhaps one of the ones most well remembered by a majority of people. Yet, what happened to such a dream? Today, the United States is more racially charged or volatile than in many years in the past. Charges of racism are continually flung back and forth all across America. Wasn’t Barack Obama’s presidency the alleged transition into a post racially divided America?
Although Barack Hussein Obama made history by becoming the first black president, those who try to link Obama’s achievements to the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. have a difficult path to provide plausible persuasion. Comparisons between King and Obama do not entirely ring true. Ironically, while Obama campaigned during the 2008 election, many Americans believed that the fast-rising rock-star Senator would heal the racial divisions in the United States. Yet, his place in history will not likely be viewed as an effort to bring Americans together in unity. Rather, he used his position as POTUS to generate a greater racial divide. Much of that happened because of his use of race as a shield or sword.
The prevalence of accusations of racism flying from one end of the country to the other increased under President Obama. Yet, the purpose was usually political divisiveness. In many instances, when Obama would weigh in on noteworthy news incidents, the president chose to provide immediate commentary on localized issues. This is similar to the way President Trump jumps on an opportunity to tweet to express himself. It is also politically divisive. Yet, the first black president was not considered racist by the mainstream media when he chose to manifest divisiveness over issues that were not clear examples of racism. Such incidents and Obama’s remarks made national headlines. Obama seemingly took sides, which generated extenuating repercussions.
The use of race as a political weapon became prevalent under President Obama. He was quite adept at utilizing a “race shield,” or a “race spear” against his political opponents. It was a strategy or practice accepted by the MSM at the time because Obama was their “POTUS of choice.” They helped to create Obama. The MSM had no aversion or adverse reaction when Obama and his administration readily employed the race card again and again. Race served as a line of defense against those who would question governmental policy rolling down from the White House. The sum of such efforts left the country even more racially embattled during the period of Obama’s presidency — and since.
Astute students of history should admit that politicizing racism is not aligned with the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ironically, on the 50th anniversary of the civil rights March on Washington, then President Obama gave a speech in remembrance of the rich legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. One key takeaway from this speech of the first black president in American history came from a woman named Heather Young of Baltimore County in 2013: “He’s basically saying that Dr. King’s message of nonviolence, Dr. King’s message of hope, are what we need.” The original celebration occurred on August 28, 1963. The anniversary was 50 years later. What changed?
Today, one of the Democrat’s political strategies in their handbag of dirty political activities utilizes the use of race as a shield or a sword. That is why “racist,” “racism,” or “white supremacy” are tags the Democrats use to accuse Republican opponents. It confounds the GOP. They have a difficult time dealing with such accusations. One exception is how President Trump allows it to roll off of him. Such accusations do not affect him because he knows who is is.
Unfortunately, the continual onslaught of such accusations has become quite excessive and racism as a word in the English language is currently being contorted or distorted for political purposes. Eventually, the meaning of the word may become irrelevant, which is a contemporary tragedy, and it would render the struggle of the civil rights pioneers less worthy of genuine respect. It would also dilute or trivialize Rev. Martin Luther King’s Dream.
Young Americans, no matter what color of their skin, who had looked up to Barack Obama, should understand that his way was not aligned with Rev. Martin Luther King’s way. This is fundamental. King was more than just a political and social reformer. King was a man of God. Obama is indeed one who could be seen as a political or social reformer. But, Obama was simply a politician, and needed to divide his opponents for political gain. Obama’s gain came at great expense to the United States. Rev. Martin Luther King’s words expressed out of genuine suffering brought great benefit to America. His “I Have A Dream” speech called for unity, and his legacy was indeed one of stressing nonviolence.
To insinuate that political opponents are racists may be a clever political device, but the tactic runs directly counter to the core of what Martin Luther King, Jr. understood about racism. A Christian clergyman, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., stood up and spoke out at the risk of his family’s safety and at the risk of his life to confront hard core racism. He faced genuine racists that not only had the internal attitude, but much more. He also faced an entrenched political structure that legalized racism through hinderance of the lawful rights and forced segregation of black citizens.
The racism that Rev. King had to risk his life to fight was personal racism manifested into the legal fabric of the government. This was what the “Democratic” Party established in the South. That was even after slavery was abolished by the federal government! Their oppression was real, not imagined. The racism was institutionalized, not simply political rhetoric. Definite tyranny over human beings still existed in an insidiously ingenious system of absolute control through the Southern power structure. This was substantial, not political hyperbole. This is why a proper appreciation of what the Civil Rights Movement had to confront is necessary. People who were not even born in such a time, need to know the truth.
If one seriously looks at the life and legacy of MLK, he was not just a civil rights leader. Several revisionist historians prefer to portray him this way. Yet, his energy of righteousness was rooted in the fact that he was a genuine Christian minister. His dream was also a dream that would have appealed to God. But, it did not appeal to all Americans then, nor sadly now. We still have a cultural tendency to not fully examine anyone’s character without first making a judgment on, say, skin color. For the most part, Americans are easily swayed by superficial features of individuals and public personalities. We are often content to limit our assessments of people to the surface observations.
Amazingly, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. looked deeper. He saw racism as a disease – essentially a disease of the heart that one would call hatred. In his collection of sermons, Strength to Love, in the sermon entitled, “Loving your enemies,” he explained:
Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…
Another reason why we must love our enemies is that hate scars the soul and distorts the personality. Mindful that hate is an evil and dangerous force, we too often think of what it does to the person hated. This is understandable, for hate brings irreparable damage to its victims.
We have seen its ugly consequences… in the terrible indignities and injustices perpetrated against millions of God’s children by unconscionable oppressors.
But there is another side we must never overlook. Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true…
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. left an indelible mark in American history. His legacy in more recent decades has not been fully appreciated. In fact, it may have been diminished due to political distortion and divisiveness in the most recent decade. It is certain that false accusations and bitter hatred will not create a foundation for a better future. However, the ideals of King’s “Dream” still exist. A healthy future for all the people of the United States will depend upon whether the present and future generations can embrace such genuine ideals or reject them.