Look in the slums, the blighted areas of our urban centers, or in our prisons, where people of color are represented in disproportionate numbers, and you can see that racial discrimination is still an ugly reality in America.
Then, look at the White House, where, come Wednesday morning, Barack Obama and his family rise to a new day in American governance, and you can see that we’ve made progress.
Martin Luther King would be proud.
Today is a special day for America. Not only are we celebrating the life of a man who shared his dream of racial equality with this nation and the world, but we do so at a moment in history when “character” has trumped “color.” Today in Washington D.C., this nation’s leaders will lift up the hope that, finally, we are breaking the shackles of despair and oppression, and raising our nation up to new heights.
Tomorrow, we will see a new out-of-the-ordinary president swear to uphold a Constitution that miraculously allowed his ascension to power.
Then, the day after tomorrow, it’s back to work. Justice never comes overnight. “The arc of the universe bends slowly,” King said, “but it always bends toward justice.”
It’s hard to believe that in less than a lifetime our nation went from Jim Crow to Barack Obama. But it happened, because Martin Luther King and a barrage of other patriots forced the nation to own up to its core principle, that all are created equal. That we were able to come this far without another civil war is a testament to King’s belief that a nonviolent revolution would more deeply effect change. Any other way would have delayed the national march toward justice. Violence begets violence, but King showed us how to turn the other cheek without losing dignity.
The movement that King led helped launch other fights for equality. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s became a model for the Chicano Movement, Women’s Liberation, Gay Rights and many other forms of nonviolent, grassroots organizing that have redefined the greatest of our nation.
King helped show us how real change comes about. He also dared to dream that his children would be judged on different terms, in a more dignified and honorable way. And President Obama will stand as a reminder that dreams can come true.