My friend Rosemary posted this on her Facebook page yesterday. The three words reminded me of something the Rev. Dr. Bernice King said her mother, Coretta Scott King, was fond of saying. Freedom has to be won anew by every generation.
It’s a powerful thought to ponder in a year where we’ve seen a nagging truth on display in a Florida courtroom in the trial of George Zimmerman. In the end, a jury decided Zimmerman’s right to use his gun in self-defense outweighed Trayvon Martin’s right to walk home from a store in his father’s gated community. In the same month, a key provision of the Voting Rights Act was repealed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The parallels of 1963 and 2013 are uncanny. Perhaps its why I can’t sleep this morning. I am in Washington, waiting for the march to commence. In 1963, leaders called it the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In 2013, the March on Washington is still about jobs and equality. It is also about education.
To be sure, personal responsibility plays a huge role in the outcome of one’s life. Every man, woman and child must assume that responsibility for their own future. But when drugs and violence continue to flood our communities, that can’t happen for everyone. When young black men in prison outnumber those in college, that absolutely cannot happen for all people. When efforts to level a playing field that has been woefully lopsided for generations are repealed or marginalized, all people will not realize freedom.
In 2013, Jim Crow exists in the form of mandatory sentencing laws that result in longer sentences for black men. Jim Crow plays out in attitudes that say a child can’t learn because of the circumstances he or she is born into.
Today, the National Mall will once again be filled with black and white people who believe Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech may one day be reality. In it, Dr. King envisioned a world where his four children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Imagine a day when the George Zimmermans of the world would stop and offer the Trayvon Martins of the world an act of good will. “Hey young man,” George might say. “Can I give you a ride home so you can get out of this rain?” “Yes Sir,” Trayvon might say in return. “My father lives right down the block. I appreciate your kindness.”
And since we are dreaming, let’s imagine George getting to know Trayvon and realizing they have more in common than either of them realizes. Perhaps George will see Trayvon as a human being with loving parents and dreams for his future. A college degree. A wife and children. Grandchildren. A long and happy life.
That’s what Dr. King meant when he said his dream was deeply rooted in the American dream.
So today, 50 years later, we march. For jobs. For freedom. For judgement based on character rather than skin color.