Why We Still Dream

(Spectrumbot) #1

A Devastated Dream

On March 6, 1857, Dred Scott held on to a dream. Together with his wife Harriett, he stood before the highest court in the land awaiting a verdict that could change his life. Having been compelled to accompany his enslaver, John Emerson, to the so-called “free” states of Illinois and Wisconsin (then a district), he thought he would have an opportunity to taste that freedom for himself when Emerson died.

I imagine that Scott’s was a recurring dream that was probably birthed on the very soil on which Oakwood University currently sits. Born in Southampton County, Virginia, he had been taken to Huntsville by the Peter Blow family, who would later sell him to John Emerson when they relocated to St. Louis, Missouri.

Like most enslaved people, Dredd already knew he was free, but dreamed of living free. When Chief Justice Roger B. Taney read the Court’s “7 to 2” majority decision, Dred and Harriett Scott had to come to terms with the sad reality that their dream of freedom had been delayed by a slavish nightmare.

A Disappointed Dream

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his dream. Addressing a crowd of a quarter million people who had gathered for the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” he challenged American hypocrisy. If this were indeed a nation built on the “self evident” truth that “all men are created equal,” why was justice such a scarce commodity? Why was the electorate closed to twenty million of America’s citizens?

As King so astutely noted, in the aftermath of the Plessey versus Ferguson decision, the courts been viciously vigilant in enforcing the “separate” but ruthlessly reluctant in emphasizing the “equal.” It was with this hypocrisy in mind that King bellowed his targeted call for freedom to “ring from every hill and molehill of Alabama.”

Those who have memorized the “I Have a Dream” speech have probably just mentally corrected this British man’s geographical memory. Wasn’t Mississippi the state from which freedom would ring from every “hill and molehill”? You’re correct if you are recalling the Washington speech. However, elements from this speech had been delivered some eighteen months earlier in the Ashby Auditorium at the then Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. It was here that King had first positioned the “hills” and “molehills” in Alabama.

Undoubtedly unaware of the eerie coincidence that he was standing where Scott had stood, King conjured the Dred Scott decision as a stanza in his historical litany of the fight for justice in segregated America. Like Scott, he believed that the system should be held accountable for the check it had issued to the negro people. As he stood on these sacred grounds, he symbolically relieved the baton from the tired hands of Dred and Harriet Scott. Their dream had been dampened with disappointment, but Dexter Avenue’s Doctor-Pastor was determined that the dream would not be destroyed.

A Determined Dream

As we celebrate another Black History Month, we are provided with another opportunity not just to remember the dreamers, but also to acknowledge the dream—not just to acknowledge the dream, but also to recognize that after all these years the dream is still a dream. As long as the judicial system protects the killers or Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, the dream is still a dream. As long as the political system is in the hands of gerrymandering proponents of the Southern Strategy, the dream is still a dream.

As long as the economic system fattens the coffers of the richest while draining the limited resources of the masses, the dream is still a dream. As long as the educational system is designed for the privileged; where too many in the inner cities and rural America fall through the cracks; where college education is designed to create a new generation of slaves who graduate shamefully burdened with massive student loans that will follow them to their graves; as long as this system is in place, the dream is still a dream.

So as we reach for Dr. King’s baton during this month of solemn commemoration, let us remember that the dream will not be realized until “justice flows down like water, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” As I close, please allow me to end this thought with a slight adaptation of the words Dr. King used to climax his peroratio at Oakwood University on March 2, 1962. Indeed, it is my prayer that all who assemble this evening will respond to the call as we work towards the day when “all of God’s children, Black, White and Latino; Jew, Gentile and Muslim; Catholic, Protestant and Non-Conformist; will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last!’”

As you dream with me, please never forget that “a tree is known by its fruit.”

Keith Augustus Burton directs the Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations at Oakwood University.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6610

(Kevin Paulson) #2

Indeed the dream still lives. Would that Dr. King were still with us to offer his selfless guidance to our still-troubled land.

(Steve Mga) #3

Have people forgotten the Dream of Martin?

  1. Character determines the Person. I would certainly not use Michael Brown as an example of greatness.
    Are Black families promoting “Character”? Are Black Churches promoting “Character”?

  2. The greatest answer to Martin’s Dream is an Intelligent Black Society. A school our black and white Tutoring kids attend, the Elementary kids on state tests for reading and math have only 60% passing. No way can Martin’s Dream come true with this generation going to this school. Drop out rates for Blacks are high. The job skills available among Blacks at this time is low. Crime is high among Blacks, look at the ratios in prison between Blacks and Whites. If Martin’s dream would be believed, large numbers of these Blacks AND Whites would be at home enjoying life and experiencing Satisfaction with what their Character brings them.
    One of the problems I see is that Parents and GrandParents have NOT embraced Martin’s Dream. They do not see it as THEIRS. And do not encourage their Children and GrandChildren to make the Dream a reality.
    For both Black AND White, Government will not bring the Dream. It has to come from the hearts and minds of Each Person in our Multi-Generational Society and keep it alive in our Multi-Generational Society. And pass it on to the next generation.
    Martin’s 'I Have A Dream" speech is probably one of the most remarkable, one of the most Important speeches, and THE MOST IMPORTANT speech in America since 1776.

(le vieux) #4

I was enjoying this article until the author elected to include Michael Brown in the mix. Poor choice, and unworthy of the remembrance of MLK. Those who violently protested the death Michael Brown showed no respect for MLK, who eschewed violence as a method for achieving positive change. A much better name to have referenced would have been Medgar Evers, who died while working for civil rights, not after robbing a store or while scuffling with a law enforcement officer.

(Rheticus) #5

Like Birder, I was cheering all through, except for this one sentence.

Indeed there are serious flaws in the USA’s Constitution and in how it is implemented. The path to fixing them is street level politics. And street level politics is a knack for choosing motivational incidents that attract more support than they push away.

I am not going to let one poorly chosen sentence stop me for cheering for the article as a whole - great article, Keith.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #6

yes racism is still alive on both sides of the line. yes even within the Church. Did anyone know that the founder of the KKK was from Indiana? we lived in Pound, Wisc 40 miles North of Green Bay, Our home was a block away from Catholic Church. We watched a cross burning in front of that church. Hate is a many despicable thing. It is color blind. What LBJ accomplished was to turn the South Republican, imagine the party of Lincoln South of the Mason-Dixon Line. Tom Z

(Kade Wilkinson) #7

Even more interesting when we remember that LBJ himself was a Texan.

(Steve Mga) #8

Yes, your ARE correct! The path to fixing anything at our street level community, our city, our county, our State, our representatives in Washington begins at street level politics.
However, in order to impact these levels we need a an INFORMED CITIZENRY. An informed citizenry has to be able to read an write at ADULT level. Has to be challenged to keep abreast of what is happening and how what is happening will impact their lives through Intentional AND UN-intentional decisions happening by those in power over all of us.
With an Un-Informed Citizenry, those at the various political levels can decide what they want and no one can prevent them from doing otherwise.
A citizenry that is Unable to be Informed because of poor reading skills are going to be content to sit at home and be entertained by Entertaining TV, to be listening to just their favorite singers on radio or cell-phones all day long, watch YouTube, and keyboard on Facebook, or hanging around the Neighborhood Convenience Store waiting for a drug transaction…
All oblivious to what is going on around them.

(jeremy) #9

years ago, during my naive undergrad yrs at auc, i thought to attend the opening meeting of black history month during my sophomore year, as i recall it…at the door, i was told i wasn’t black enough to attend…

picture it…a person born in africa, with clear zulu and xhosa ancestry, isn’t black enough to attend an african american meeting, attended by very few who would have been born in africa…i wonder why i don’t make it a priority to follow the so-called progress of civil rights in adventism anymore…

(Rohan Charlton) #10

Amen Kevin. Absolutely. I’m not American but I think the world is in dire need of MLK and his message.

(Interested Friend) #12

How about some concrete examples to support this allegation which is mainly a glittering generality?

(Harry Allen) #13

Thanks, niteguy2.

In the greatest, most important speech in American history, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says this:

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.

In other words, King designates the elimination of racism as the sole, fit context for correct character judgment and development.

No Black child can develop the character that they should possess while soaking in a sea of White Supremacy. It is not only stingy on the part of white people to make such demands, nor is it only cruel. To do so, while, briefly, professing undying affection for King’s words, is to, again, loudly peal the bells of hypocrisy.


(Alfred ) #14

Excellent article Keith. I do understand the inclusion of Brown and I thank you for it. When Black and White Christians can come together under one roof and celebrate Christ on Sabbath morning, we just might see God in all of His glory. Until we practice loving each other as equals we cannot enter heaven, we are unfit for heaven. Loving thy neighbor includes African Americans in poor and middle income neighborhoods. In Harlem at the Ephesus church, a White Adventist minister stated that he can’t wait to get to heaven to come over to the Black side of heaven to sing and shout with the saints. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Can you imagine anyone in their right spiritual mind making such a statement to a Black, Latino and White congregation. Where does this kind of thinking come from – certainly not from a loving Savior. Thank God! How can you hate what God has created. We will not see Jesus unless all are welcomed at God’s communion table. The majority of Blacks are law abiding citizens – can you imagine what our society would be like if we weren’t. There are African American family units that have produced fine Christian citizens with character, values and morals in the America!

(Allen Shepherd) #15

Am I to understand that the proponents of the S. Strategy are the only ones that do dirty tricks to fool the electorate? It is only the GOP that has soiled hands? If that weren’t such hogwash, such articles as this would be more acceptable. A less biased political view, more inclusive, shall I say, would promote acceptance of the thinking here.

And Brown was a thug whom the judicial system needed to protect the citizens from. Didn’t you see the video of his assaulting the clerk? I think you need to give up the idea that these folks were innocent. Or at least be discriminating. Such thinking makes YOU look as prejudiced as those S. Strategists.

(Tom Loop) #16

Well birder, I have given you my first up vote, ever. I think what happened in
Fergusion, Mo. was terrible. To me ,a thug is a thug, is a thug regardless of color. I have been a member of a grand jury before. Grand juries must make determinations based on evidence, not news clips doctored to push a slanted version of what they want the public to believe. From observation of the tapes, the officer was justified in shooting Michael Brown, tragic as it was. It was either that or risk the possibility of being killed himself.

MLK would not have endorsed the  race baiting of  Al Sharpton, who fanned the flames of racial tension in Fergusion, Mo. Thanks to his  demogogary  the riots that followed left 27 businesses burned down, most of which belonged to black people.  Two policeman were shot point blank in cold blood in NYC.  You are old enough to remember when Huey Newton, H. Rap Brown and Eldridge Cleaver  famed the flames of  hatred that nearly burned down Detroit, Newark, and numerous other cities in the  aftermath of the terrible assinantioin of MLK in 1968. 

I agree completely with the theme of the writer of this blog that a tree is know by it’s fruit. We must love as Jesus loved. but we must also call down self righteousness and hatred. We can both remember I’m sure the song “Red and brown black and white, all are precious in this sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” NOOOOOOOW here is my dream, that gay people will also be included in that song.

(le vieux) #17

They already are. As the song says, Jesus loves us all, and receives us as we are, but, fortunately He doesn’t leave us there. He elevates us to a higher standard–if we are willing. Jesus knows the weaknesses of all of us, and is willing to help us gain victory over these weaknesses. The problem that arises, whenever the subject of homosexuality is discussed, is that a certain segment of that subgroup sees no need to overcome their sinful propensities. They don’t see it as a sinful propensity and wish to be affirmed in their lifestyles and be free to engage in what the Bible forbids. I know of no other identifiable subgroup which takes this position.

(Elaine Nelson) #18

“Ferguson” has become a symbol for all the police injustice on African-Americans that have continued far too long. But much worse is their treatment of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri–those were the worst representatives of injustice toward blacks. Now that more police are wearing video cams we have seen what has never before been available and the police have nearly always been cleared. This week was a video revealed by some individual who traced it to a surveillance camera and the action was on TV news for everyone to see how terribly unjustified was the police beating of a woman repeatedly.

There are some localities where blacks have been stopped for missing a red tail light, and heavily fined, giving the local community a large part of operating expenses. These are known by by the black community and fosters rage at the terrible injustice,

(Elaine Nelson) #19

This is the same archaic belief that generations ago said that any birth deformity was because evil was in the mother. Dr Cupino has explained how in utero the determination of the genitals was very early and the brain became hard-wired for orientation before birth.

Is that why some Christians believe in “original sin”? A baby is declared sinful from birth because of his sexual orientation that is not demonstrated until years later at puberty? Is he sinful at birth or only at a later development: puberty? Are “acts” sin, or individual’s?

(Tom Loop) #20

Elaine I started to give an explanation of why I said what I did, but I see that it got partially posted before I was finished. I should have known better than to even agree with birder on this one. You followed me over here from the other blog and bit me in the rear like a watch dog.

I am no racist. If anything I am just the opposite and I proudly flew my flag on MLK day. I just wish there were more people like MLK today and fewer Al Sharpton’s. A little African American boy in a classroom where i am a volunteer grandpa, just introduced me to his dad two days ago. Shaking hands, he said his boy told him about the nice white grandpa who helps in the classroom. I shook his hand firmly and told him I was glad to meet him, and that we are fortunate to have such a good public school in our neighborhood.

I go the extra mile to make the minority students feel special. This school has a zero tolerance for bullying. Each month there is emphasis on a particular character trait. So far we have done respect, responsibility, caring, courage, and this month is patriotism, because it is President’s month. Above the doorway after you enter the school is a banner that reads “treat people you meet the same way you would like them to treat you.” ,

One of these days, Elaine, all the swords will be beaten into plowshears.

(Tom Loop) #21

Gerrymandering is a system whereby legislative and congressional districts are drawn to give advantage to the party that is in power in the state where they are drawn. It all started with a guy named Eldrdige Gerry back in the 1800’s. At the turn of every decade a census is taken in the USA, which is then used to redraw the legislative and congressional district lines. In the age of computers, gerrymandering has come down to a real science. The GOP won big in 2010, capturing several governorships and control of many respective legislatures. So in several states they drew the district lines to favor GOP candidates. Some Democrats , like leftwingnut Nancy Pelosi are screaming like mashed cats. But the Democrats did the same thing here in California, where we have a democrat, Jerry Brown, as governor and a legislature controlled by the same party. So they have gerrymandered the districts so .bad that they have solidified their hold on this state. Out of 52 congressional districts only 17 are Republican. The democrats control 2/3 of the seats in the legislature. They have given themselves a 2 to 1 advantage that is basically locked in until after the next census in 2020. The GOP did the same thing in Texas, and several other states.

The bottom line is we have few real statesmen(women) anymore. the two parties are captive to the extreme of their own base. Partisan politics has sunk to an all-time low. We have the most leftwing president in our history and the most rightwing congress. Gone are the days of moderation and compromise when Clinton was President and a GOP congress actually got a lot accomplished and the country was doing not so bad.
If you think things are bad now, just wait. It can only get worse. There is no situation so hopeless that the current bunch in Washington will most likely only make worse.,