On August 27, 1963, thousands of Americans – Black and White – marched to the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C. in protest. They were protesting the racial segregation of schools, discrimination in the job market, police brutality, and inferior social treatment of African Americans. It was at this protest that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the “I Have a Dream” speech that still remains famous today.
This isn’t the most well-known part of this speech, but I’d like to share a part of it here:
“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.
“They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. “
This is my favorite part of this speech – frankly, because I’m White. I was raised with the expectation that anyone of any race should be on level ground already – but I was also raised in Utah, where most of the population is White. So I grew up thinking I was racist, because I didn’t have any Black friends. It wasn’t until later on that I realized I just didn’t know any Black people. It took me, sadly, a few decades of life to figure out that being White doesn’t mean I oppress people like other White people have.
I love this speech because of its obvious, Christian doctrine of forgiveness. The nonviolence of the Civil Rights Movement shaped the minds of White America by showing a love from the Black community that most sheltered white people hadn’t seen before – they hadn’t spent enough time with Black Americans. The nonviolent protest showed the way society was supposed to work, and forgave and welcomed White Americans as soon as they wanted to join forces. There was no backlash or revenge – just a demand for equal treatment.
The purpose of the Civil Rights Movement, including Dr. King’s involvement, was to assume that “sneetches are sneetches, and no kind of sneetch is the best on the beaches.” (to quote Dr. Suess, if I may be so bold.) The movement was one of the finest examples of Christianity the world has ever seen, because it focused not on penance for sins past, but on forgiveness and improvement, offering to turn enemies into best friends. It is to fight hate with love, which is the finest thing humans are capable of. God rest you, Dr. King. ♦