Fifty Years Later and Still Dreaming
It was a hot and humid day in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. I can’t imagine what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was thinking and feeling as he took to the steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial. While his historically famous words echoed across the sea of faces flooding the Mall with the Washington Monument on the horizon, I wonder if he could’ve imagined the impact that they would have on a little white girl who would be born decades later.
“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal’…
I have a dream that my four 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…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.”
It was another hot and humid day a few miles outside of D.C. on August 28, 2006, forty-three years to the day of that famous speech, that our first-born son entered this world. He was beautiful, and to me, the picture of hope that those around us would see the beauty of our interracial marriage.
Almost instantly things changed for us as a bi-racial family. These changes were most clearly seen when we would be out in public: the stares and comments we had grown accustomed to early on in our marriage as a black man and a white woman were now smiles and compliments of our darling little one and how God has blessed us with such a cute little boy. He seemed to be our “buffer” in the midst of even the most racially tense times. I thought the world truly had changed for us and for him. But then I noticed while filling out all of his paperwork for medical information, applications for a birth certificate and Social Security card, etc., that my precious son was not seen as “black” or “white” but “other”.
A few years later, on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, I sat with my oldest son, now holding our second newborn son in my arms, and together we watched President Barack Obama be sworn into office.
I was captivated by all of the pomp and circumstance of the day. Even though I did not vote for him, I found myself tearing up and grateful that my sons and husband now live in a day where surely, they will now be judged on “the content of their character” and not by “the color of their skin.” I prayed that the nation would embrace our President’s bi-racial heritage and the platform of having a leader that represents two races that have come together in unity.
However, as the weeks went by, it seemed as though his election only stirred the pot of racial tension that had laid dormant under the surface for decades.
Friends, neighbors, and even church members now seemed to be talking with nonchalance regarding issues of race, as if it was nothing more than a persons’ political party of choice rather than the Sovereign-designed beautiful plan and purpose of God in that person’s life. My hope for change was quickly met by the reality that racism still existed regardless of who was in office.
Four years have gone by, and as we celebrate both Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and President Obama’s second inauguration, I cannot help but wonder if we are still dreaming of the time that Dr. King spoke of on that hot August day. It is easy to get discouraged as a white mother to now four beautiful “mixed” children (two sons and two daughters) and wonder how long I can shield them from the nasty comments in the grocery store or even the unknowingly ignorant comments by church friends. It is easy to get nervous when I see the tides of racism grow stronger, aided by the swirling undercurrents of “entertainment” from movies like “Django Unchained” or even “Lincoln,” and other historical portrayal of events that are a sad but true part of our American history.
While I think that it is so important to remember our past, my fear is that the raw emotions evoked from such movies will be transposed to the present and that our nation as a whole will be further divided by a war that is no longer fought on battlefields but in our hearts.
As a wife, it has been difficult to watch my husband, a man I deeply admire and respect for his Christ-like character and the authenticity of his testimony, be overlooked or mistreated based on the color of his skin. There have been times in ministry where he has been told by search committees that they love his preaching and that he “would be the ideal candidate at ________ Baptist Church but that their mostly white congregation is just not ready to sit under a black pastor.” Others that have said they, “were not sure if he is charismatic enough for ________ Gospel Church, and not sure how their mostly black congregation would respond to his white wife and mixed family.” It is especially frustrating when I hear our black friends tease him for sounding “white” because he is highly educated or when our white friends act surprised by how well he preaches for a “black” man. They don’t understand that at the root of their words lies the deep dark bud of racism that is within all of our hearts.
So how can I, as a mother, make sure that this weed does not overtake the hearts of my children? How can I make sure it does not overtake my own heart?
I cannot control the hearts of those around my family, but I do have the opportunity to shape the hearts of my children, and my own heart, not around the culture that we live in, or the biases that are born within us, but to the eternal truths of Scripture. I will strive to show my children, and myself, that it is not in the words of MLK, or in the election of President Obama that we will find true hope for change. Rather, our true hope for change is in the Person and Work of Christ Jesus in us!
My prayer is that, through my teaching and testimony, my four children will see that:
- CHRIST enables us to CELEBRATE other races, ethnicities/cultures, NOT just TOLERATE them, and in doing so we learn to APPRECIATE our differences. (Rev. 7:9-10)
- CHRIST enables us to SUBJUGATE ourselves under unjust treatment, NOT RETALIATE, trusting that HE is the One who will VINDICATE us, for the glory of His Name in us. (1 Pet 2:15, 17, 19-23)
- CHRIST enables us to DEMONSTRATE His love to the world, NOT just to LEGISLATE cultural morality, while we trust in Him alone to PENETRATE the hearts of men. (1 Jn4:7-12, 19-21)
- CHRIST enables us to INTEGRATE as a Body of Believers while we rightly SEPERATE from the world and in doing so we COMMUNICATE the beauty of the Gospel. (1 Cor.12:12-14)
- CHRIST enables us to believe in Him as our Eternal ADVOCATE, knowing that He is the only One who can truly MEDIATE our relationship to God and to each other. (Eph.2:13-16, Gal. 3:28)
As long as there is sin in this world, there will be racism.
Fifty years later and we are still dreaming Dr. King’s dream. But as for my sweet children, I pray that they will wake up to the Son shining brightly in all of His glorious truth and that they will look to Him for true change that they can believe in. I know this to be true…after all: They are living proof that He changed me!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” (Eph.3:20-21, NIV)