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Will Martin Luther King's Dream Ever Truly Come True?
Recently we celebrated the birthday of a man who, thanks to him, did much to make America see the hypocisy of its creed of liberty and "all men are created equal" when 12% of its citizens - and others who are not whites of Anglo-Saxon and Protestant descent - have spent over 500 years as being thought of as inferior human beings, or not human beings at all.
Please don't misunderstand - as an African American male, I more than appreciate Martin Luther King for all the hardships and cruelty he endured, ultimately dying in the name of a world where, in his words, people can be judged "...not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
Thanks to Dr. King, I've never had to sit in the back of a bus, or have been denied service in a store, or have had to go to the back door of a restaurant to eat a meal.
And thanks to Dr. King, I've never seen a "Whites Only" sign or have been forced to go to a segregated school, or use a segregated toilet or a water fountain.
However, as much as it hurts me to write this and as much as I regret it...
If someone asked me if Dr. King's dream has come true, or will ever come true, I'm forced to say, with sadness, "no" - despite the fact that we've had an black man of African descent in the White House for the past three years.
Don't get me wrong - I know and am completely aware that relationships between races and cultures have skyrocketed for the better in the forty years-plus since Dr. King's murder in 1968.
Interracial relationships and marriages have increased significantly, as has integrated neighborhoods, which is wonderful and something that I absolutely love, BUT...
I simply can't help thinking that there are some things that will never change, that there are some areas in American life where blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, Jewish people, and others will always be separated, particuarly churches and college Greek organizations.
It has often been said that 11:00 a.m on Sunday mornings is the most segregated hour of the week, and when was the last time you ever saw a significant number of blacks and other students of color in historically white fraternities and soroities - or vice-versa?
Also, though there have been efforts across America to forestall this, go to almost any high school or college in the country and you will see, for the most part, whites hanging out and eating with whites, blacks hanging out and eating with blacks, and so on.
And as for interracial relationships, there are still many people who frown on, and are outright hostile to, those who date or marry anyone whose skin color, ethnic group, and/or culture is not the same as theirs.
I think that, ultimately, the reason why there remains this sort of self-segregation despite the achievements of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement comes down to this:
CULTURE AND CULTURAL CONFLICT / COMFORT.
I personally own two books that concur with this, this first one by Tim Green, a former player in the National Football League who wrote a book, "The Dark Side Of The Game", in which he talks in one of the chapters about how, to many fans' surprise, black and white players largely lead separate social lives off the field. Green states this as the main factor:
"...black and white players on a whole talk differently, walk differently, listen to different music...and even dress differently...these differences breed mistrust."
"From the perspective of an unenlightened white player, blacks who...wear extravagant clothes and jewelry are simply flaunting their newfound wealth. The rap music...is loud and offensive to them. Some whisper racial epithets among themselves, cursing blacks for their 'ghetto' ways."
What those whites don't understand is that blacks often feel that they are forced to not dress casually in order for the mainstream white world to not think of them as thugs or something of that nature. That's what I mean by cultural conflict.
Another book that clearly illustrated this concept to me was the epic "Autobiography of Malcolm X", in which upon Malcolm's pilgrimage to Mecca, a place where thousands of Muslims of all colors and creeds were worshipping Allah in brotherhood and sisterhood, he noticed:
"There was a color pattern in the huge crowds...I saw that people who looked alike drew together and for most of the time stayed together. This was entirely voluntary; there being no other reason for it. But Africans were with Africans. Pakistanis were with Pakistanis. And so on. I tucked it into my mind that when I returned home I would tell Americans...that where true brotherhood existed among all colors, where no one felt segregated, where there was no "superiority" complex, no "inferiority" complex - then voluntarily, naturally, people of the same kind felt drawn together by that which they had in common."
Am I improving of this or happy about it? No. I'm just telling it like it is.
What Malcolm was saying was that this self-separation wasn't racist or done out of racism - it was human nature; namely human nature after the young childhood stage.
And after studying Dr. King and his movement for the longest time in schools and what not, it's my feeling that as good as that man has done not only for civil rights in America, but for America as a whole, he and his cronies in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference failed to recognize one thing:
For the same reason you can't force someone who does not like you, for whatever reason, to suddenly like you, you cannot force a group of people to love another group of people, no matter how many protests, sit-ins, marches or "I Have A Dream" speeches you make.
In other words, you can't force brotherhood.
If that were the case, then those four little girls wouldn't have been killed in that Birmingham, AL church blast not three weeks after King made that famous speech that is played on TV every year around mid-January.
If that were the case, then I personally wouldn't have ever been called the "N-word" as a child, or have been turned down for one particular job which is burned into my memory, or have been racially profiled and even handcuffed across the street from my house because I "fit the description" of some criminal - because I was black.
If that were the case, African American males wouldn't be followed around in stores because of a fear that they might steal something.
And if that were the case, there wouldn't have been children in Idaho chanting "Assassinate Obama" on a school bus in the weeks following his inaguration.
Do I think that this dream of Dr. King's will ever completely come true?
To be perfectly honest, some parts of my mind say no, but deep down, considering the capiatlist and competitive nature of this country, I truly don't know.
I certainly hope so, but it will take lots and lots of hard work not only by whites, but by blacks and every other ethnic and racial group - work that because of adult human nature and the natural desire for cultural comfort, I honestly don't think that enough people are willing to put in.
I guess that's all I have to say about that.