On August 28, 1963, I was less than two years old and had no interest or awareness of what was happening on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech didn’t have much effect on my life then.
Amazingly enough, I have never listened to the whole speech until today, August 30, 2013. I have heard portions of it, quoted portions of it, and have been moved and challenged by it. It has caused me to reflect on my heritage as well as my values.
I grew up and went to school in a west Texas town where most of the people of color lived on the north side of the railroad tracks. In my memory, the segregation was limited to that. We went to school together, played sports together, shopped at the same stores, and ate at the same restaurants. Certainly there was some racial prejudice, but we were just going about with life and not thinking much about it.
But it was not always that way and it was not true everywhere. I have a good friend who is now a retired Baptist preacher. I love and respect him as a friend and brother. He is a black man. A few years ago, we had him come and preach at a special service. He reflected on his own experience growing up in another west Texas town. His father was the janitor at a local church. They would let him come into the building to clean it during the week, but he was not welcome to come and worship on Sunday.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to be denied access to a church, a restaurant, or a drinking fountain because of the color of my skin. And I am grateful that we now have laws that prevent that kind of discrimination. We have come a long way in fifty years. I am convinced that Dr. King’s dream has been realized as far as the laws of the land are concerned.
Racism, however, as well as all other prejudices, cannot be eliminated by laws. They are problems of the heart. As long as I see myself as superior or more valuable than others, I have a problem. When my preferences become my prejudices, I hinder the work that God wants to accomplish in and through me. If I believe MY life matters more to God than YOURS, I will not be the person He wants me to be.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
"You are worthy … with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:9-10)
I have a dream that we will live out these truths.