The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the most memorable speech of the 20th century. His “I have a dream” speech is ranked number one on most lists and in the minds of many Americans. No one has said anything to surpass it. No one has dreamed bigger. In fact, we have yet to realize it, to accept and understand what he was really asking of us. Maybe this is why nothing more is said; instead, we point back to his dream.
This was not just great oratory, a demonstration of well- ordered words, of the perfect combination of intellect and passion. King’s dream was a charge for all of America to change the reality of our society. He said, in effect, that if we do not honor the words that we have declared then we are not the country that we say that we are, that we can make declarations of independence and pass laws that promise freedom but if we do not act to bring about change, then we are aiding and abetting a crippling fantasy.
I accept the charge. I want my son to be seen for his character not the social coloring of his skin. So, I will not give my son “the talk” as it relates to police officers, at least not in the fear- based way that it has been suggested. He will not be afraid of law enforcement. I have already instilled in him that sirens are “the sound of safety.” They are coming to help someone.
And my son will be known by the police officers in his neighborhood by name because he will know them as members of his neighborhood. My son will play with her and his sons and daughters. I don’t want him to be afraid of law enforcement and I don’t want to deter him from pursuing it as a career.
I will not amend his taste in clothing; if he wants to wear a hoodie, he will wear one. At two years old, he wears them now– not in rebellion to the stereotype but because I like them and so does he. It’s cute and it’s easy. And that’s all that should matter because it’s clothing and there’s nothing criminal about clothing. He will not be judged on his clothing either.
I want to see what Rev. King saw. I want to get to the mountaintop. But, I will not get there looking back on history as justification for anger, bitterness and resentment. I will not get there looking down on European Americans, suspecting every socially colored white person as a potential murderer, stereotyping every police officers as a bad one.
No, I will get to the mountaintop by allowing God to order my steps (Psalm 37.23). I will walk away from prejudice and hatred. I will run away from racism. I will flee cultural clicks. I will drop the baggage of history and only pack its blessings. I will walk alongside anyone who wants to go with me and I will reach my hand out to those who don’t have the strength but the desire to go.
We will climb to the heights of reconciliation and we will enjoy the view of the mountaintop, shared with all God’s children.