Monday of this week is the national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In honoring him, we are also honoring all who have struggled to bring about equality and civil rights for all Americans, regardless of race.
It has been said many times that racial injustice is the Original Sin of America. From the beginnings of this country, relationships between the races, and the different ways in which the races are treated, has been the great failure of our nation to live up to the words, “We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Originally, the rights named in the Declaration of Independence, and in the Constitution, referred to the rights of white, property-owning men. Women did not share in those rights, nor did white men who did not own property. Blacks, Indians, Asians, and others did not share in those rights and have had to fight for inclusion in this great dream of a nation made up of people who are created equal by God.
Dr. King dedicated his life to guaranteeing that all people would share in those rights. That is the basis of his “Dream,” that he announced on Aug. 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Having described the struggle, he went on:
“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression that will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”
“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 today.”
“I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the blood of interposition and nullification, right down 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 today.”
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and valley shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
As a people we have made a great deal of progress, but there is a long way to go. As we recall Dr. King and his great dream, let us all dedicate ourselves to make that dream a living reality.
–Fr. Mike Comer