As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day, it is fitting to reflect on the America he envisioned. Are you living the dream—a life not just of tolerance of other races but a true respect and appreciation of people of a different skin color? Our ability to be honest with ourselves and take real and concrete action to address our shortcomings will determine the America we will leave behind for the next generation.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I have a dream” speech given on August 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC., cast a vision of a racially integrated and free America to an estimated 250,000 people in attendance that day: “…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…” Beyond the powerful rhetoric, one can hear the depths of emotion and the deep cry of the soul, not only for his generation but for future ones, and not just for Black people but for all people. This speech is seen as a watershed moment in the civil rights movement that eventually led to Congress passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Since then, both Republican and Democrat administrations have made efforts to appoint Black people to prominent government positions. In 2008, the US crowned these efforts and elected its first Black president, Barack Obama. America has had its first Black female Vice President, Kamala Harris, and its first Black female Supreme Court justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson. Whatever your politics, there’s no doubt that progress has been made. However, dreams are very personal, and despite these breakthroughs, there are not a few for whom the dream is still yet to be realized. For many Black people, the reality on the ground, in their homes, schools, jobs and pocketbooks does not reflect the accomplishments at the national level.
Hence, wherever you are on the race spectrum, the question that must be asked is at a deeply personal level, where the rubber meets the road. Are you living the dream? Do you feel judged by the color of your skin instead of the content of your character? And how have you treated people of other races? To what extent are you willing to go for someone who has a different skin tone? Our answers to these questions need not be casual or perfunctory, as they carry with them remarkable consequences, not just for ourselves and our children but for others and the nation.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr paid for his dream with his life. A deep introspection is the least we can do as we honor him on his birthday. White, Black, Democrat or Republican, as we reflect on our shortcomings, let’s resolve to address them in words and deeds, not to hurt but to heal. What we say to people matters as much as what we do. Together, we can create an America in which people of all races can flourish and contribute without reservation. A truly free and strong America is better for all of us, and it all depends on the dream we choose to live today. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Solomon Ofori-Ansah is a minister and an entrepreneur. He is the inventor of IsoSoccer Extreme, a brand-new sport, and Founder and President of Isosports International, Inc, a sports, media, and entertainment company based in Dallas, Texas.