“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is revered not just because to shocked the race conscious America of the 60s, but because of the ideal that it was aiming for. One where we have achieved that founding ideal that All Men Are Created Equal and the defining nature of society is based entirely on our moral character.
This statement and King’s success made him an American and global legend. With a 90% approval rating in America, he is referred on both sides of the political spectrum. He is the only non-president in America to have his own national holiday because while he may not have been a political leader, he is seen as a guiding light for how the ideal and true society should be. In schools across the country children are taught that when they grow up that they should follow King’s sacred creed. This is because when division in America was at its highest he preached for a country of unity. In the face of incredible racism and systematic oppression he wanted an inclusive America. Where people, not judged by their color would treat each other as equals. It was a perfect vision that believed in a higher human nature. It was his vision that he saw America becoming.
Except that never happened. Instead, America has failed in King’s dream of a society where we don’t see color. If you had to ask these days if race and identity was on the mind of most Americans, you’d get a resounding yes. Further, we even treat people differently based on race. If two people of two different racial groups had equal content of their character, we would ask ourselves what they are before we cast our judgement. Many times, that judgement would be different.
Should that surprise you? In the world of the resurgent White Nationalism and Black Lives Matter, where Hispanic Immigration questions are fought in Congress and the growth of China and Asia shakes America’s Superpower status, race and identity are on the forefront. You can’t look away from it, it’s all around us.
In that sense we have fallen in achieving Dr.Luther King’s dream in every aspect. In some ways, people would say if King was around he would say it’s turned into a nightmare. If you told many people that we shouldn’t see color these days they would meet you with scorn. If not ostracization. People want to see color and talk about color more than ever.
Positive Identity was created on this reality. That race and identity are part of our lives. That when we see the world around us we make judgements and take action based on the information at hand. People are different and in those differences we take different actions. It’s not just obvious but the right way to do things. Ideally though, we see the best version of each other and ourselves and take action from that perspective. That when we spread positive stories of what Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native and White people are doing for each other and the world, we’re aware that different communities overall have differences approaches and experiences with America.
In many ways Positive Identity is the totally rejection of King’s dream. He sees a colorblind society. We see a society of color through and through.
Yet King would love what we’re trying to do.
King called for us to reject JUDGEMENT of others based on the content of their character. This key choice of words should not go unnoticed for King, as a pastor and man of God saw judgement through the Christian lens. In the Bible, judgement would mean a decision of court, usually in a negative sense. Judgement meant you were on trial, with the chance to face punishment for your actions. He chose the word judgement because he did not want us to punish each other based on our the color of our skin.
King easily could have said “I look to a day when people will not see each other by the color of their skin”. But he didn’t. He didn’t because we know that he would speak about race and identity often, with his focus on how Black America could have a seat at the same table as White America. Race was to be seen, understood and discussed. The Black experience was different than the White experience. To ask for the same approach, the same methods both both racial groups… would be foolish beyond measure. Which is why MLK spoke to White America different then he spoke to Black America. The specifics of the different experience, and how to adjust to them, were key in fighting against racism, oppression and for justice for Black Americans.
What MLK did though with what he saw was the big one. The one that Positive Identity aligns with as well. The one that is a rejection of the negative racial division that we see in America today. This quote:
“I have a dream that one day(…) one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
“I have a dream(…) the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
“And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
What he did was…He saw the best of people. He saw people as what they are, but saw the best in them. That they were people of an untapped good. That were capable of being forces of unity and progress for the world.
He would expect us to see in color these days. But he would recognize the good that Asian, Black, Hispanic and White people do for each other and the world and follow that vision. We know this for a fact because if he didn’t see people as good… he would have never done his work at all.
King dreamed that “one day” we would achieve this higher world and while it would be safe to say the world isn’t there yet… it would take courage to say that we’re already here right now. Because so many of us have followed in the spirit of his dream, to have a society where people of different backgrounds can be good to each other. Even though it seems like we don’t hear about this in the world, so many of you do so much good every day. Yet we at Positive Identity see that, we want to show that, and in honor of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we hold him up as a beacon of the greatness in the Black Community and what they are capable of, what we believe in each other, and what any of us can be.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sees the world in color and sees the good that people of all races can become. Remember that as we celebrate his life and legacy this Monday, 2021.
Originally published at https://www.thepositiveidentity.com on January 15, 2021.