I was overcome with tears at my church service yesterday morning. Something so profound hit me that I have never really took the time to reflect. This carried into the day of festivities of today. You see this day is significant for three reasons. First, it has been 150 years since the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation. Second, it is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day. This year marks 50 years since Dr. King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. Finally, today was the re-inauguration of President Barack Obama, our 44th President, and the first African-American President of the United States.
I went back and read Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Although most people quote it for his concepts dealing with the harmonizing of little black and white children joining hands together and his own black children not being judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character, there is much more to the speech. The overarching theme of the speech was freedom. But I ask you this, are we as black people truly free? Or even further are we as a nation free?
Many people predicted that with the election of President Obama that all issues in race have been solved. That we no longer have a "race problem". The schools are no longer segregated, the children are being bussed and everything is perfect. Blacks, whites, tans, pales, all living together in harmony. But is this accurate? While many black people, as well as white people saw the election and then re-election of President Obama to office as a victory for all it does not end the struggles we have as a nation to address the remnants that the institution of slavery has forever stained our country. In fact, I would argue that having our first black President has only showed how little we have come and how much more progress that we need to achieve. If anything the election of President Obama has removed racism from the shadows and brought it to the forefront. This man, our Commander-in-Chief, has seen a level of disrespect that is unprecedented. His fellow colleagues and even the media have inserted subtle and also blatant acts of racism and prejudice.
We are not a racial utopia. Although I may live in an area that is diverse and centered around having a heterogeneous community of diversity we are far from a utopia. I may be proud to go to a church that is home to people of different races, nationalities, ages, and backgrounds we are far from being one monolithic utopia. However, despite the diversity of Bridgeway, most churches are not mixed. In fact, one of my former pastors would often say that churches on Sunday are still some of the most segregated institutions. I am sure that if you were to do a random poll of people that few would say that they socialize with people outside of their own race on a regular basis.
So despite the efforts of de-segregation we are still self-segregating. How can we move forward together as a country if we still are separating ourselves in all areas of life? How can we deal with a past so painful if no one wants to have the conversation? Slavery, racism, and prejudice is like the birds and bees talk that parents never want to have. The solution cannot continue to be to ignore and pretend as if everything is ok. Because while we do this people are dying. Families are struggling. Children are giving up the hope that they too might be our future president.
Despite what side of the political scale that you may fall, despite your income, despite what you skin color is, despite you gender, and despite your sexual preference we have to have the uncomfortable conversations. Otherwise how are we ever going to to grow as a country? How are we ever going to realize our true potential? It is time to admit that the institution of slavery has deep seated roots in which much of our country was built. As a result it has had a far reaching grasp for generations after. Why do you think our neighborhoods look the way they do? Why do you think that certain races have certain health issues? Why do you think that there is always an educational gap amongst the races? Why is that that some men are more likely to be in prison than be in college? These are the questions we need to start asking. And these are the answers that we must seek together. Because although you may think that these questions and these answers do not affect you, they do. And the lack of a plan to deal with these problems is costing everyone, and for some it is with their lives!
So in honor of all the people who have come before us can we put our differences aside? Can we all make this commitment that in your own small part that you become part of the solution and not part of the problem? Let's reach across our aisles and do the uncomfortable. Let's have the dialogues that lead to the plans that truly represent equality. Let's realize the dream that Dr. King once spoke of. Let freedom ring for all and let us all be free from the bondage that prevents our progress. Happy birthday Dr. King and congratulations President Obama!