At the not-yet-ripe age of seven, I was vaguely aware of the civil rights tensions in our nation. My parents never discussed the news in front of three small children, so information from the world outside our home drifted across my vision through the daily paper or snippets of the five o’clock news.
Television news, as every seven-year-old knows, is boring. However, I was a kid who loved to read. Anything. I could sound out all the words in a newspaper article. The problem: I didn’t understand the meanings of those big words. Their accompanying pictures puzzled me. A crowd of people marching down a street. Like in a parade? But there didn’t seem to be any bands playing music. A fire hose spraying water at all the people. I liked getting wet with our garden hose on a hot summer day, but that hose knocked people down. It didn’t look like fun.
I shrugged it off. It wasn’t part of my second-grade, integrated, New York world. Would that be considered systemically racist?
Some might say so, but every child is only aware of his or her daily surroundings. African-American children in the deep South were far more cognizant of prejudice against them. Their parents warned them of the ugly consequences if they didn’t behave in public according to the customs of the day—customs which certainly could be called systemically racist.
Once I gained the mental maturity to understand what Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Riders accomplished, I admired their courage. I recognized that the “Good Old Boy” fraternity in many states consisted of a group of white people in power who didn’t want the clear distinctions of their caste system clouded by anyone, black or white. To break into the ranks above was called “uppity” and required punishment.
MLK and his followers refused to quit. They marched peacefully. From what I’ve read, they never hit back at the police unless their children were attacked by said police. Some of those who marched died for the cause including King himself. Others were maimed for life from the beatings they received. Still, they persevered. And ordinary citizens of all colors and from all walks of life and from all over the nation began to put pressure on those Good Ole Boys and the government leaders.
King’s famous line from his “I Have a Dream” speech spoke of his desire that his children would be “judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I believe our nation has made great headway in gaining that dream. America integrated its schools, its sports, its businesses, its military, and its homes.
Is the dream accomplished in full? No. Did we progress perfectly? Does any human being progress perfectly in doing what is right?
Today, there is a new, vindictive dream trying to establish itself in our schools and in our identities. It’s in direct opposition to Martin Luther King’s vision of America. Instead, this dream instructs us to judge each other by the color of our skin, not by the content of our character. The new dream divides, creates guilt in the minds of the innocent, and causes those of different skin color to be suspicious of each other.
Men and women, now in their seventies and eighties, who marched with Dr. King are heartsick. They bled for the opportunity of equality, and now, groups who encourage hate-filled violence shred their dream.
King called for dignity and discipline. He desired justice for all. He wanted respect, not favoritism. He warned against bitterness and hatred.
BLM and Antifa have rejected his dream and turned it on its head. Attacks on police who did not attack them. Foul language. Looting. Arson. Even murder. They seek revenge against all of society for the sins of a few.
The violence and unrest we see on the news has led the United States into another dark season. Will all Americans stand with MLK’s legacy for what is right and good and peaceful and loving? The Church needs to lead the way. Pastors, black and white and every shade of brown, along with rabbis and imams, need to link arms and remind the world of Dr. King’s dream. And not only our faith-based leaders. Their congregations must march behind them, both literally and figuratively, as should anyone who recognizes right from wrong.
A wonderful message, Linda. It’s like history is rewinding and going backwards. We’re in the ’70s again–and going back to nothing good. We can only look up to find hope. God bless!
Thank you, Nancy. I think many of us feel the burden to sound the alarm, a God-sent pressure to those of us who have a platform, no matter how large or small.
It’s so important to know in our core that God loves each one of us. We are so deeply loved by Him, and in return, we are commanded to love each other. NO one is better than anyone else.
Yes, Jessica. And that’s why the Church universal is called to lead the way as examples of love. The first century church exhibited such love, and the world took notice!
God does loves us so deeply that I really can’t imagine it or understand it but I am thankful for it. Lovely post Linda.
Thank you, Yvonne.
With such overwhelming evil surrounding us, I am extremely grateful for His love! Because of it, I will not be shaken!
A wonderful message, Linda. I was a few years older than you when Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and all of those Freedom Riders attempted to overturn racism. I watched their actions, and I embraced their cause. I’m so thankful for the Black friends I’ve cherished across the years who have helped me to understand even more thoroughly. John Lewis was a hero, gone on to his reward. May the Lord make justice the rule of our land! May we have equality and justice and truly embrace one another because of the content of our character while helping to advance those who are still discriminated and often singled out and treat badly because of the color of their skin, such as George Floyd was treated. We have a long way to go! I do hope that the pastors, rabbis, and imams link arms, as you propose! It would make an enormous difference!
This is a wonderful post and is totally on point. Thank you for writing it.
Thank you, Janice.
The world has scary times. I am thankful for God’s love and glory. I am thankful to know Him and to be able to share His love with everyone.
That’ s what many of us try to do with our blog posts!
Social media doesn’t help when people post things online they would never say to someone in person. Flames are fanned into wildfires. As a society, we’ve lost our ability for civil discourse. May God soften hearts and bring reconciliation!
I agree, Ava. We used to be able to agree to disagree and still be friends.
Linda, I love this. You are brave and bold and I think, right. Martin Luther King Jr. was my hero and a big reason for my going into the ministry. He did lead us to see each other simply as people and to judge based on character. What is currently happening is divisive and ugly and is not intended to bring equality or unity. It’s a political power grab and scare tactic. I loathe it. Yes, I will stand with those who pick up Dr. King’s message and methods.
Thank you Pam. If only the entire world would agree with you!