My son recently wrote an essay posing this question, ‘Would Martin Luther King Jr. support Black Lives Matter?’ He concluded the father of civil rights in America – a leader of integrity who urged his people to make a difference in the world, the eloquent statesman who preached love, unity, and peace – would not embrace the race-defined violence in America today. I agree. Martin Luther King Jr. understood hatred based on race would eventually destroy this great nation. He might have led the charge to end racial inequality while actively designing mutually respectful solutions to unite rather than divide. He dared to dream that unity and equality were possible.
My friend argued recently that violence against whites is warranted because we don’t understand what it is to live black in America. I countered with King’s famous quote, “I have a dream that my four little 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.”
No, I don’t know what it is like to be a black man in America, but most black men don’t know what it’s like to be a middle aged, white woman either. We are equal, but different. I refuse to categorize people by the color of their skin. Shades of melanin cannot define a person, community, or nation.
I was raised by angry, counterculture, atheist parents who espoused hatred, violence, and division. My parents adamantly believed minorities, capitalists, disabled, Christian, Republican, overweight, or unintelligent people were inferior. Their attitude of supremacy damned people different than themselves. Some of the race-driven propaganda and rhetoric heard today eerily emulates twisted arguments my parents once imposed upon me.
I rejected their belief system for the first time when I was seven. I made friends with the only black student in my school – not because he was black, but because he made me laugh and liked art. I had another secret friend – a beautiful girl with Down Syndrome. She was kind, creative, and generous. We gave anonymous little gifts to people just to see them smile. I didn’t see what my parents saw when I looked at my friends. I saw human beings just like me, equal but different.
I learned about unity, quality, truth, and love from King’s great speech.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out… its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Martin Luther King, quoting the founding fathers of our nation, taught this child from the 1960’s that love and mutual respect for a diverse humanity, not hatred and violence, would bring about change. He challenged all Americans to reject violence and hatred as a justified means to achieve equality and freedom. I agreed as a child and still do as an adult.
“…We must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline and not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.”
Would this great leader support rampant violence, rooted in bitterness and hatred, against other human beings based on the color of their skin? Would he allow his words to be slandered to support causes opposing everything he believed? He had a different dream for America. Can we as individuals transcend our differences, join together in unity, and embrace his anthem cry?
“I have a dream that crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope and transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963
For a complete transcript of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, visit: