This morning, for the first time, I read the transcript of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.
I know. It’s shameful that it’s taken me this long to take it in, in its entirety. You can find it here, if you’re interested.
On the day that the United States honors this great man’s legacy, it seemed appropriate to contemplate his dream.
Fifty Years Later
I can’t help wondering what Mr. King would think of the state of his dream today. On the surface, much has been fulfilled.
- Schools and other businesses are no longer racially segregated – at least, not legally.
- Every U.S. citizen can vote, as long as they’re of age.
- Interracial marriage (that term irks me; we’re all human, after all) is relatively commonplace.
Great strides have been made, no doubt about it. And yet… There is at least one piece of that poignant dream that has yet to fully manifest.
“I have a dream that my four 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’m pretty sure Dr. King would find this dream lacking, half a century later.
Remember what happened right after 9/11? People who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent were judged not by who they were, but by what they looked like.
George Takei talks, now and again, about the judgement faced by his family on his popular Facebook page, and it was the main theme in the critically acclaimed musical play Allegiance, in which he starred in fall 2012.
Racism abounds in this country; a sad fact if not an appalling one. That part of Dr. King’s dream needs work, even now.
Close to Home
Hand in hand with racism walks sizeism, which I’ve been the object of given my obesity.
I’ve applied it to others myself – both to those like me; women who need to lose 100 or 200 pounds, or more, and who are the butt of endless jokes and disgusted glances – and those on the opposite end of the spectrum; women who are impossibly, unhealthily thin, and who are held up as an example of beauty to which to aspire.
I don’t make jokes or cast disgusted glances. I do sometimes judge when I see another woman “of size” with a heaping plate of fat-laden food before her.
The irony is, I judge myself at the same time; I am her, as she is me.
Maybe it’s understandable. Maybe it isn’t so bad. After all, I’m only human, right? Thing is, we’re all human, and there’s the rub.
Racial profiling and sizeism are nightmares of humanity. Not a dream in sight.
Where’s the Dream?
Within. The dream resides within me, as it does within you.
It slumbers in wait for us to recognize its truth, awaken it, hold it up to the light, and show it to our family and friends and colleagues so that a ripple effect might affect a larger change.
I have a dream that we can fulfill Dr. King’s vision by the end of this decade. Its fulfillment starts with me, and I’m holding it up to the light, and to you.
Will you have and hold the dream, too?