Even in 2016, there are many issues worth arguing over. During a recent conversation with a black friend, I said something like “America doesn’t care about MLK day.” I apologize for this frustrated, cynical outburst. And while I hope the statement isn’t true, it’s hard to maintain optimism when “destruction” seems to be the word of each day. However. Today is a day for regrouping. For remembering incredible past progress.
Yes, because today is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, let’s discuss gratitude. Let’s discuss the birth of a dream.
On August 28, 1963, at the March on Washington, MLK delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Because we write on the backs of our ancestors, we reimagine their dreams. MLK arguably uses this knowledge to great effect.
I say to you today, my friends…even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’
Of course, for our purposes, I’d be negligent if I failed to quote another extraordinarily memorable passage:
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. I have a dream…that one day…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
We—those who are biracial, multicultural, multiracial, and generally diverse—are the descendants of these dreams.
We are made possible by other dreams, too. Like Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving’s dream of equal love, that which transcended race. Because 1958 is only 58 years ago. Only 58 years stand between 2016 and language from people like Chief Justice Warren:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.
In 1967’s Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. So 49 years stand between 2016 and the constitutional guarantee that all “mixed” marriages are legal. On a distinct but equally important note, less than a year stands between 2016 and the constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.
Now let’s return to today. We aren’t MLK’s dream. We’re not the children MLK directly refers to in his speech. We are the children and grandchildren (literally and figuratively) of the little black boys and girls who have held hands with little white boys and girls. As sisters, brothers, lovers, friends, we are a family, blood ties or no. As people sharing a mixed but nevertheless human experience, we are of all colors and stripes. We are the descendants of dreams, the dreams of dreams. And, thanks to MLK and other advocates like him, we have dreams of our own.
Happy birthday, MLK, and thank you for the roads you paved. —Joy Stoffers, Festival Blogger