Home > Uncategorized > "I Have A Dream Today"

"I Have A Dream Today"

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

On August 28, 1963, a pastor in his mid 30’s, gave an awe-inspiring speech to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He expressed his desire of a future where black, whites, and other groups could live together in harmony. That man, of course, was the Reverend Dr. King himself.

I grew up on stories of the Million Man March. The Godmother has shown me pictures of her, Uncle E, and Aunt J on the lawn of the Lincoln Memorial that day in August. My Grandpa told me stories of Klansmen coming by one day to cause his father trouble when he was a boy on their farm. I’ve heard the stories of the Civil Rights Movement from people who lived it. People who always reminded me to make full use out of every opportunity afforded me as things were not always so.

In the 45 years since Dr. King shared his dream, things have changed greatly. The fact that I write this as student at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill is proof positive of that. However, we still seem to struggle when it comes to how we treat people in our everyday lives.

Mom: “Have you voted?”
Me: “I went earlier today after class.”
Mom: “Did you vote for Obama?”
Me: “Can you really see me voting for a Republican?”
Mom: “Good, you should see our neighbors now. It must drive them crazy that we’re voting for him.”
Me: “That’s because our neighbors are Republicans for some reason. One I don’t really pretend to understand. I’ll have to ask next time I come visit.”
Mom: “The only reason they’re voting for them is because they’re white and don’t want to see a black man as President.”

I remember last year when people said race would not be an issue in this election. I also remember thinking, “if only that were true”. My mom cannot conceive of any other reason why someone would vote for McCain other than they’re racist. Is this true for some? Experience tells me yes. But I can’t believe it holds true for every single McCain supporter. If that’s true then apparently The Bait, Tinkerbell, Dolly, Pippi, and a vast majority of the people I go to church with are all closet racists.

I flashback to last week and to how put off I was when that woman decided the only reason I was voting for Obama was because he was (half) black. I try and explain to my mom that I’m not going to assume that’s the only reason a white person would vote for McCain. She came right out and said I had no idea what racism was like.

I remember being called a halfie and blue-eyed monkey as a kid for my eye color.

I remember one jackass telling me the only reason I made it into Advanced Placement classes was because I was a nigger who needed a helping hand.

I remember my first, and only, blind date looking disgusted upon meeting me and uttering, “oh, I didn’t know you were black.”

I remember Tinkerbell telling me about how her father said he’d rather she be gay than date a black guy.

I remember the many, many arguments I’ve had with my Grandmother over the fact that I trust a white person enough to date them and should know better.

I remember my cousin expousing how much he hated the white man and all he represented and wondering how in the world I am related to this man.

I remember the time a woman threatened to pepper spray me because I was walking back from a test at night and was trying to move past her to the lot where my car was.

I remember going to a certain music store that was fairly crowded when I came in and being watched like a hawk the entire time I was there in the fear that I might steal something.

I remember the rage and despair I felt as I had to explain to the girl who is increasingly becoming my daughter, still shy of four years old, what the term “nigger lover” meant.

Oh yes, we have come far since the days of Jim Crow. We have come far since 3 little girls died at 16th St. Baptist Church. We have come far since Little Rock. We have come far since the sit-ins and boycotts.

But I know we still have a ways to go.

Some people would tell me that it will never change. That people will always judge based on appearance. I have to hope for something better. The alternative is to become that which I rebelled against since childhood. That outcome is unacceptable. I believe that it can change. I don’t see racism as “just natural”. I believe we as a species are better than that.

I have a dream that one day racism will be a thing we will look back on and uniformly see it as something the ignorant people of the past held onto and something that has no place in the future.

I have a dream that one day the words nigger, cracker, chink, spick, and all other slurs will never be heard again.

I have a dream that one day I will be able to walk down the street in old jeans, a black hoodie, and hat with my hands deep in my pockets and not have a single person wonder what I am up to.

I have a dream that one day people can see each other’s worth based solely on their words and actions and not look to race to explain why good or bad things happen.

I have a dream that one day we will all believe “all men are created equal.”

I have a dream today.

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  1. Tricia
    October 23, 2008 at 11:27 AM

    What about the word ‘honky?’ Aaaahhh….good ol’ George Jefferson. I’m as white as white can get (I should own stock in sunscreen companies), but that word is funny.

    Hugs to you. Thanks for sharing a perspective I’ll never get. It’s not fair. But it seems to me that time is changing things…we’re all growing up and raising our own kids with different ideas than what we ourselves were raised with. At least I am, anyway.

    What do you think? Is it getting better with each passing generation, or is that a part of how I just don’t get it? I wanna know…

  2. Diane
    October 23, 2008 at 11:46 AM

    You know how I feel about this. I share your dreams and though I have SO much more to say, since this is YOUR post ;), all I WILL say is ‘So, so, SO very well said, my friend.’

  3. the almost right word
    October 23, 2008 at 4:14 PM

    As always, very well written. You express something many of us are concerned about. Sometimes I worry that the only reason Obama wouldn’t win is the issue of race, which seems ridiculous in the year 2008-2009. I know many of us are thrilled to vote for a candidate who “isn’t white,” but I also know that there is still a large population of people who wouldn’t even consider it. If not now, when will it end?

  4. Diane
    October 23, 2008 at 5:41 PM

    I have an award for you over at my place… come get it when you have a sec.

  5. The Odd Duck
    October 23, 2008 at 8:47 PM

    Tricia – I only heard honky on The Jeffersons or in country songs so I didn’t explicitly include it. Things are most definitely getting better but like I said, we still have a ways to go.

    Diane – There is still more I want to say on this but I was exhausted at that point and thought I needed to wrap up. At least for the moment.

    ARW – The idea that the only reason Obama wouldn’t win is because of race IS ridiculous. I know good and well that there are people who wouldn’t consider voting for him for that reason. And as for when will it end, that’s what I would like to know.

  6. Summer
    October 23, 2008 at 9:06 PM

    I had the extreme pleasure of studying Martin Luther King Jr. in my humanities class. I was completely blown away by his words and his message. We studied his less famous “Beyond Vietnam” speech which if you substituted Vietnam for Iraq is incredibly accurate for today.
    I think if he was alive and read this, it would make him proud.
    Well done.

    Oh, and to answer your question, I figure he must have thrown it up there!

  7. The Odd Duck
    October 23, 2008 at 9:17 PM

    Summer – I studied “Beyond Vietnam” for my American History class over the summer so I agree with you about its relevancy today.

    Hearing someone who thinks this piece would make him proud, makes me smile.

    P. S. UPS is failing these days. Seriously.

  8. GirlGriot
    November 10, 2008 at 2:11 AM

    Hi, Kendall–
    Thanks for discovering my blog and leaving a comment. I’ve been poking around here for a bit and I like what I see. This post really struck me. I have had many of these same experiences (well, no one responds to me as a black man, of course!), and I’ve had many, many conversations that grow out of this with my students.

    The fact that we are still having these experiences and conversations is what drives me nuts when people say we are now ‘post racial,’ whatever that’s supposed to mean when it’s home.

    I share your dream.

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