Each year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I either engage in some service activity that speaks to his legacy or watch a movie or read a book that challenges me in some way to remember all that he brought to our world. This year, I watched a documentary about the 1963 March on Washington – the venue for his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech. There were some details on the backstory of the March that I had never heard and the film was a great reminder of how much hard work went into its success. Whether you’ve heard the cadence of Martin Luther King, Jr. ring out that day or not, the following excerpt might bring you a bit closer to the import of his words:
There are those who are asking the devotees of Civil Rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality; we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities; we cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one; we can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”; we cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote, and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No! No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
This week, I invite you to take a bit of time to read the entire text of King’s words (even if you’ve read them before), and consider how much of his vision remains unrealized. Better yet, if you are White American, have that conversation with a Black American and see if your answers differ.