Thursday, January 31, 2008
As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day this month, I have reflected a lot recently on what his dream was, and whether we have achieved it. I believe he would be proud of the society, which we have become, but also believe that we have a ways to go yet.
Three of my best friends are African-American women. All are professionals. Two of them have advanced degrees. And all of them have overcome adversity to get where they are today
One has survived the tragic loss of her husband, one has raised her children as a single mom after a divorce, and one battles her husband's cancer daily.
I treasure each and every one of them as dear friends. I have celebrated their children's marriages and grandchildren born with them. I have cried with them in sorrow as they have suffered tragedies and illness. And I would trust any of them with my life.
I stood next to one friend as she celebrated her 25th anniversary with a renewal of vows this past year. These three dear friends were hostesses at a 25th wedding anniversary party for my husband and me two years ago.
As one of them visited me recently in Summerville, she sat in my living room and teared up as she told me that of all of her friends, my husband and I are the only two that she knows without a doubt do not see her color when we look at her.
None of these women ever forgets their color. They remembered as they told their children that they would have to work a little harder than white children, because discrimination and typecasting still exist today in America. They overcame adversity and discrimination and rose above it all to be successful.
One recently told me that everyone does see color and it is important to see color, because in America color is part of who we are. "One must see color to appreciate and acknowledge a significant part of who we are. I want others to acknowledge, affirm and appreciate my "blackness" in the same way that I want people to regard my "femaleness" because both are significant elements of who I am. Both influence the way I see and respond to the world; and neither dictates any special treatment I expect or deserve. I do not believe that there is any such thing as true colorblindness because it denies our individuality."
Two of them are educators and have worked tirelessly to be role models, to teach black children that they can be more than their beginnings, but they must work harder and believe in themselves. As Martin Luther King stated, they must conduct their struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
Thanks to technology today, we can view Dr. Martin Luther King as he gives his famous I Have a Dream Speech during the March on Washington in 1963. I did that today and it still gives me goose bumps.
Martin Luther King would be proud of how far we have come and encourage a continued quest toward unity. But until each and every one of us does not see the color of the other's skin as a means of division, when we can judge each other on our hearts and souls, when we can embrace our differences and celebrate our similarities, and as Martin Luther King said, when we can judge each other not by the color of our skin but by the content of our characters, we will not truly have attained his dream. We will not truly be free.
I am thrilled to see a Presidential primary where we have so many choices, choices that include a woman and an African American male. It is even more rewarding that so many people are making those choices not based on those facts, but on the content of the characters of all of the candidates. Martin Luther King would be proud to see us build on the strength inherent in our uniqueness. As we progress toward his dream, we must always remember his words from a Birmingham jail (April 16, 1963), "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."