White folks could never imagine what it was like to not be allowed into a restaurant because of skin color.
The thought of not being permitted to sit in the sanctuary of a church, being forced to ride in the back of a bus or not being able to enroll a child in a great public school because of race are things any Caucasian would find unacceptable and unthinkable.
Racism is not — or should not be — a political issue.
Regardless of political persuasion, religious denomination or social station, racism is wrong.
If, by our Creator, we are all created equal then all people should be treated equally, especially by a government that is supposed to be of, by and for the people — all the people.
In many ways our nation is a different place than it was 50 years ago, but sadly, in other ways it is not.
People from all across the United States, including men, women and children from our community have descended on Washington to honor the historic March on Washington and what has become known as the “I Have a Dream,” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered at the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago.
Regardless of what anyone thinks of King’s politics, he was not a politician and was a man of peaceful protests. In fact, his poignant messages on civil rights, coupled with his strong leadership of a national movement earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are the direct result of the civil rights movement, for which King carried the banner.
King was born in 1929 in Atlanta, the son of a Baptist minister. He graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 and in 1955 received a Ph.D. in Theology from Boston University. He served as assistant pastor of his father’s church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Throughout the nation, King led demonstrations, marches, protests, sit-ins and boycotts. Though jailed several times for his efforts, his demonstrations were always peaceful.
His message crossed all racial, ethnic, national and religious boundaries.
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Unlike most of us, he worked each day of his life to turn that dream into reality.
Yet, 50 years later questions remain. Are we free at last? Are we free from prejudice? Are we free from racism? Are we free from bigotry? Are we free of bias?
Who will dare to answer those questions honestly?
There is little doubt we are farther down the road toward those freedoms than we would have been had it not been for Dr. King.
There is also little doubt, we have not yet arrived to the mountain top.
What began as a spark in the heart of a King became a glimmer of hope in the eyes of a nation and by the time of his death, erupted into a brilliant flame exposing the demons hidden within the darkest recesses of our souls.
While people adamantly deny their racism, King exposed it in ways that had not done been before and in doing so incubated a national dialogue that served as a catalyst for sweeping changes in public policy and in the ways we view ourselves.
By raising public awareness, stimulating public debate and peacefully petitioning the government for a redress of grievances, he demonstrated what it means to be an American.
King showed the true meaning of the First Amendment.
The dream can only be kept alive when we dare to look deep within ourselves and admit our prejudices.
It is only by being honest with ourselves that we can gain freedom from the chains that bind us.
The strides made in civil rights as the result of his efforts and the work of those who followed him are significant, but this week we should all consider just how far we still need to go to make our nation a place where all people are free at last regardless of race, creed or politics.
A belief in human equality and dignity for everyone is neither liberal or conservative; republican, democrat or libertarian; black, white, Latino or Asian.
It is simply right.
— Editor Jim Zachary