“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
the pursuit of the dream.
to me, this is “the speech“. the speech that gave a racially divided america reason to believe one day, maybe just maybe we could be united despite our differences, racially or otherwise. we have seen much of Dr. King’s dream become realities throughout the years. in 1998 while visiting tunica, mississippi, i was witness to extravagant leaps and bounds in racial unity, just by walking down the street with white people. the locals said then that this never would have happened even ten years previous. wow. to me, growing up as the only black kid in predominately caucasian traverse city, michigan, this was truly unbelievable. ‘a black kid couldn’t even walk down the street with a white kid?’ i was truly amazed at the honesty and openness of the locals about their racially divided struggles of the past. i guess we have come a long ways.
fast forward. 2010. as a black man who grew up in a white family with white and hispanic siblings, my story is most likely different from yours. i did not grow up with thoughts of racial segregation. i was brought into a integrated family unit much different than any others i knew back then. this doesn’t mean i didn’t face racial hostilities as a kid and doesn’t mean i don’t now as an adult. i feel the stares when i am with my white friends in public or today when i walk down the street holding hands with my girlfriend who happens to be white. i know it. i sense it. i’m not oblivious. white people and black people alike have the same reactions. just last night as we were walking past a park bench, an african-american female pretended to be reading a book but instead sat smirking with her eyes glued to us as we strolled past hand in hand. the smirk was a symptom of her intolerance. sometimes you just know what a person is thinking. i guess i just don’t care. my mom told me once (after an elderly man told me that if he could, he would beat the black out of me for delivering his newspaper wrong. i was 11 at the time) that if i let people get the best of me regarding the color of my skin, i will always be miserable. so i learned to shake it off. when people told me they couldn’t believe how articulate i was for a black kid, i just shrugged it off. ‘it must be how you were raised‘, they’d say, knowing i was raised with white parents. apparently black kids are naturally unintelligent and raw when it comes to social skill development. it is amazing how that idea can sub-consciously seep into a person’s thought process. i developed a sense of humor about it, mainly as a defense mechanism, when kids would daily make jokes about me on the school bus, i would simply laugh with them but inside i always could feel the sting of prejudice thoughts. as i grew older, i initiated the jokes, might as well beat them to the punch right? i would rather start the joke than be the joke. that was my mindset. make it funny!
but. is it funny?
this little narrative is not intended to be about my life. it is about america. it is about the race wars that wage in the back of our minds on a regular occurrence. it is prevalent in every part of our society. we see it in hollywood, where a-list black actors still fight for recognition as oscar worthy candidates for their craft and their talent, not being good for a black actor. sports has a way of developing reverse racism lately. a white basketball player can normally be compared to larry bird. (when was steve nash last compared to isiah thomas or magic johnson instead of bob cousy and john stockton?) in our neighborhoods we still see racial and class struggles, though the two don’t equally intermingle quite like society assumes it does, but that is a different topic and not one i am trying to exploit here. what i am trying to expose is the racial hostilities that reside in all of us. admit it. we both know that we have thoughts about each other that do not equal reality. i like wearing baggy long shorts. not because i am black but because they are comfortable. i also like rap music, but do i like that because of my race or because i like the flow and the beat and the emotions that are so raw and real it makes me feel like i went through the same pain? do i like journey’s “don’t stop believing” because of the white culture i reside in or because of the memories it creates in my head? see, too often we equate intellect, athletic ability and social aptitude with racial conditions, but in truth, our racial heritage is only a small factor. maybe we are who we are because that is who we were always supposed to be, regardless of the skin that covers us.
dr. king had a dream. it was not a daydream. it was not unattainable. that has been proven. the pursuit of this dream has been the goal ever since it was laid out in front of the world. one day we will be equal. where we go next is up to us. you. me. this story is never-ending. it never should be. it is the pursuit of the dream.