16 January 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: I Have A Dream


In January 2010, about seven months before our daughter was born, I decided to explore this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday myself. I posted my findings on our private family blog. Today I want to share that with you.

"Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Growing up I was taught to ignore or even act appalled by this holiday. There is some understandable reason for this. Some African-American people take this holiday to extreme and create extreme situations and do extreme things on this holiday. This is something you wouldn't understand unless you were raised in the South. However, racism is something I have (and am still) growing out of. While I believe no one, of any race, can say they are completely un-racist, racism is an ugly thing. I won't go into it, but bottom line, no if ands or buts, we are all children of God, period. If you believe this you can in no way practice racism.

"Today is a break in ingrained tradition. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Today is the first time I celebrate, or at least learn why others celebrate, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I have checked out a video of Martin Luther Jr.'s speech and plan to watch it - something most people who are against this holiday have never done. I have checked out his autobiography. I do not know what I will find. I have never been taught about him. I do not know what the outcome will be. But, the point is that I am willing to learn.

"What has brought all of this up? I think you have a pretty good guess. Adoption. Yep. We do not know from what background our child will come. While I never fully ascribed to racism it has been with me since birth. And while our child may not be African-American it cannot hurt for me to learn. In fact I believe it will do me good.

"February is Black History Month, you know. Is it still called Black History Month?

"While some of my family will shake their heads and say, "What has the West done to our [Peach]?" I choose to carry this out. Close-mindedness is not an attribute I wish for my children to have.

"Lest you misunderstand, my dear family who I love very deeply, this is not a post against you. This is a post against racism."

A week or so later I posted a follow-up.

"I read the first few chapters of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. It's a great book and I am enjoying learning about this man who has so long been a mystery to me. I don't have the time to finish it and the other books I'm reading and still be a mommy and wife, so I'll have to finish it later. However, I learned a great deal, and didn't stop until I got to a point where I felt I knew enough about him to form an opinion of my own.

"This book was not technically written by Dr. King. Clayborne Carson complied his journals, letters, college papers, etc, to create this book and wrote it as if Dr. King wrote it himself.

"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born and raised Atlanta, Georgia. He was born into an upper middle class black family - the son, grandson, and great-grandson of preachers. He was raised in a good Christian home and was encouraged to get an education. He started college at the age of fifteen, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology, then got a Bachelor of Divinity Degree, then a Doctorate in Systematic Theology. He was a very intelligent man who was intrigued by human nature and studied the many works of scholars past to form his own opinion of the world.

"After receiving his doctorate he married a gal from Alabama and they had four children. Before the children came Dr. King was offered a few teaching jobs in the North where segregation was not present. He was also offered a preaching job in Alabama at a church that happened to be across from the place where Jefferson Davis took the oath as the president of the Confederacy. He and his wife discussed his future job and their future lives. They did not want to raise children in a segregated environment like they were raised in. They wanted to live in the North. After much praying they knew that Dr. King needed to take the job in Alabama. They felt that the Lord had blessed them with the opportunity to receive education and experiences that could help the people of the South.

"I was very impressed by this book and this man. I wrote down a few quotes that stuck out to me. The first and most impressionable one is, '...we may conquer Southern armies by the sword, but it is another thing to conquer Southern hate...'. This really hit home and instantaneously stung me and brought a tear to my eye. How true. How sad, but how very true.

"Another quote I jotted down is, 'I saw economic injustice firsthand, and realized that the poor white was exploited just as much as the negro. Through these early experiences I grew up deeply conscious of the varieties of injustice in our society.' See, as he grew up what he saw in the world shaped the person he became. He became very concerned with classes of people and Christians treating each other unfairly. He could not bring himself to be tolerant of hypocrisy.

"'I could never adjust to the separate waiting rooms, separate eating places, separate rest rooms, partly because the separate was always unequal, and partly because the very idea of separation did something to my sense of dignity and self-respect.' It is an odd thing for me to try to comprehend. I did not grow up in a world of segregation. Although I grew up in the South I cannot understand these separations just because someones skin is a different color. It's baffling.

"One of the many scholars Dr. King studied was Henry David Thoreau. Dr. King says, 'Henry David Thoreau's essay "On Civil Disobedience"... made my first contact with the theory of nonviolent resistance... I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good... no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice...'. This brings me to the march on Washington D.C. and his speech in front of The Lincoln Memorial. He was one of the few organizers of the march. I watched the DVD of the original coverage of the march and his speech. The people were reminded time and time again that this was a peaceful protest. They were polite and nicely dressed in suits and skirts. The ladies wore hats and the men wore ties. It was a beautiful thing to watch. Throughout the movement Dr. King was adamant that every protest and every demonstration be peaceful. He would not tolerate violence.

"Did you know there were 350,000 people there and that 30,000 were white? Did you know there wasn't a single violent incident? Did you know that people came from across America, some on foot? Did you know it was and still is one of the largest marches on Washington D.C. and that is was and still is one of the most peaceful?

"'...nonviolent resistance[is] one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their quest for social justice.' Dr. King's protests and demonstrations consisted of marches, sitting in the front of buses where only white people were permitted to sit, sending children to sing in jails, and things of the sort. Not to say that some people didn't do violent things, but not this man, and not under his order.

"The only part of his speech I knew about was, 'I have a dream,' and 'little children'. I am sure not many people know how he talked about his white brothers and sisters. This is not a quote from his speech, but it is similar to what he talked about in his speech. 'The Negro who experiences bitter and agonizing circumstances as a result of some ungodly white person is tempted to look upon all white persons as evil, if he fails to look beyond his circumstances. But the minute he looks beyond his circumstances and sees the whole of the situation, he discovers that some of the most implacable and vehement advocates of racial equality are consecrated white persons. We must never forget that such a noble organization as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP] was organized by whites, and even to this day gains a great deal of support from Northern and Southern white persons.' He was very much a man who believed we are all God's children.

"One last quote I wrote down is, 'Through education we seek to change attitudes and internal feelings (prejudice, hate, etc.)...'. Dr. King believed that education - the removal of ignorance - was the key to racial justice.

"Briefly, my overall opinion of Dr. King is that he was a good man. He was a Christian man. He was a man trying to make a difference for good in the world. My opinion of the march and his speech is that they are awe-striking. I feel like it was something that needed to be done, and I honestly think Dr. King was chosen by the Lord to be the one to do it. I honestly believe he was fore-ordained and this was his holy calling.

"The Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln was supposed to make all men equal regardless of his color. The march took place one hundred years later. One hundred years later The Emancipation Proclamation had not yet been honored. Why? Racism. Stubbornness. Pride. People of the South ignored The Emancipation Proclamation because it came from a man who was not 'their' president. After the Civil War people in the South hung onto their loss. They couldn't and some still can't let it go. Why not? If they had things would be so very different. Things would be so much better. This is my opinion.

"Now hate has begotten hate. I am positive that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be highly disappointed in the way that some African-Americans celebrate his holiday. Some use this day as a day for free reign of hate and persecution toward Caucasian people. Some Caucasian people in certain neighborhoods do not leave home on this day.

"Neither race is without fault. Neither race can be grouped together as having one particular attitude toward the other. It is an individual choice. I have made mine."

Today, after having learned even more, I would write this post a bit differently, but I wanted to leave it original to the time it was written.



image courtesy of clker.com

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2 comments:

  1. Peach, I love how you coin things so beautifully, even when it's something as unplesant as this. Having grown up here too, I understand everything you've mentioned from this perspective. And I am so glad that you've put it this way.

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