Faces on Faith: Dreams in the making
What does it mean to have a dream? That’s a question we should all be asking in the week ahead.
A few years back I came across two different newspaper columns that ended in a very similar manner. Both were dealing with race relations in the past. One, written by Samuel Freedman, a white male scholar, dealt with the story of an integrated high school basketball team that played in Nashville in the sixties. The other column was penned by Isabel Wilkerson, a black female journalist. She recounted the great migration of African-Americans from the rural south to the urban north in the early twentieth century. Though addressing different moments in history, both writers came to the same basic conclusion. Freedman ends his piece quoting a teacher at the school where the integrated team played ball. “The students (of today) need to know that past generations were confronted with a right and wrong choice. And their generation will have to choose too. Some of the battles have been won, but not all.” (New York Times,1-10-15, A17) Meanwhile Wilkerson finishes off her column with these words: ” (A)s much progress as has been made over the generations, the challenges of color and tribe were not locked away in another century but persist as a national problem and require the commitment of the entire nation to resolve.” (New York Times, 1-11-15, 7)
This coming weekend, as we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King, part of that celebration must be an acknowledgement that in many ways things have improved. The dream is being fulfilled. Voting rights have been secured, at least in the legal code, for all people, regardless of race. Lunch counters are open. Housing is to be offered in a non-discriminatory fashion. Hiring must be color blind. Legal segregation is a thing of the past. Educational institutions are open to all. But there still exist great divides, economic and otherwise, between blacks and whites in this nation. Time and again statistics bear out the reality that race still makes a difference in health, in life expectancy, in our courts and in financial stability. And like those who’ve gone before, our generation we must also choose. Will we change our attitudes? Will we work for greater equality, greater justice? Will we continue to work to make the dream a reality?
For the work is not over, the work is not done. There are battles yet to be fought. And we as a nation must be willing to choose the right. Over fifty years ago now Dr. King spoke of his dream. We celebrate his birthday not just to honor a great American, but also to be reminded of that dream, and the work that lies ahead of us.
The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner is the senior pastor at Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.