"I have a dream that my four little children will oneday live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skinbut by the content of their character."
When I was in sixth grade I was chosen to recite this well-known quote in for a musical that we were performing at my school called, "Kids for America". While I was excited about the singing and dancing and having a chance to have a speaking part in the play, this quote rattle around my young mind in a way that no other words had before.
I grew up in a tiny town in western Pennsylvania and the community was lily white. There was no racial diversity to see or speak of. The only significant differences I recognized were religious ones, and this only happened because the kids who were Catholic were dismissed early on Fridays so they could attend Catechism Class. From my perspective I could not understand why I could not go to class with my Catholic friends to Religious Ed - after all, I loved Jesus too!
The unifying power of Dr. King's words cut through my homogeneous environment. I longed to have friends that were different from me. I wished that there could be a way, for me, to join in Dr. King's call to stop judgement based on skin color or religious perspective. I wanted to be a part of the whole human community in it's difficulty, it's difference and it's diversity. In my small town in western Pennsylvania I longed for equality for all people.
While I probably could not articulate this so clearly as a child, what I could do was recite Dr. King's words with passion and sincerity. The emotion of this longing for equality for all people rattled in my heart and came out of my mouth. Dr. King's words freed me to speak, even from my own space of unknown privilege, about the truth that sets all people free.
This freedom for all and freedom from judgement based on external and uncontrollable qualities is not a simple task to achieve. In light of recent days we know that differences have been the cause of great grief, loss and destruction. In this time more than ever, we need to bring challenges in the world to the space where Dr. King's words brought us over forty years ago. We all need a refresher lesson in valuing people.
Who do we think we are to decide that one group of people is better than another?
Who do we think we are to assume that one group or another is wholly evil or intent on the destruction of others?
Who do we think we are to think that respect for human life is only a quality accessible for some and not others?
Justice, respect, protection and cherishing human life can't be sequestered to speeches from days passed by. These principles need to be the foundation we walk upon until bigotry is a thing of the past.
In another section of Dr. King's 'I have a dream' speech is the following statement...
"we refuse to believe that the bank of justice isbankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the greatvaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, acheck that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security ofjustice."
We may think our accounts for justice are empty, but I refuse to believe this. Dr. King refused to believe this. Will you refuse to believe this too?
Justice for all needs to bring all people back into a sense of balance, respect and dreams filled with hope for each persons future - regardless of skin color, religious perspective or other aspect of diversity. The dream of Dr. King needs to become reality.
To listen to the entire 'I have a dream' speech by Dr. King, please visit American Rhetoric