Originally Published on 8/29/2013
I spent my summer driving in France and Spain playing Spiritual High on the car’s sound system as often and as loud as I could. Spiritual High is a genius mix of music and parts of Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech.
The song is over 15 minutes long and Martin Luther King’s voice is not heard until the song hits 11’30”. But the wait is well worth it. Hearing his voice, feeling the impact of his words, one cannot help but recognize goodness,wisdom and justice; nor can one deny that, in many ways, King’s dream has come true. Little black boys and black girls hold hands with little white boys and white girls more often and more easily today than at any point in our nation’s history. We are able to work together, pray together, struggle together, stand up for freedom together, and even go to jail together.
As unimaginable as it might have been 50 years ago, today we have a President who is the son of a black man and a white woman, and who was elected—twice— due to the content of his character.
But we also recognize how far we are from completing the dream. We might go to jail together but those with black skin go in higher numbers than those with white skin (vs. their proportion in the general population), and it is a known fact that blacks receive harsher sentences than whites.
Just two months ago, the Supreme Court killed Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, that stipulated that some states could not change their voting laws without approval from the federal government, by declaring that “things have changed dramatically” since the law was instituted. This, even in the face of blatant GOP manipulation in several states in order to prevent minorities from voting.
We have an interracial President whose message of unity has succeeded in inspiring most, but also in uniting different factions of the Republican Party with the single-minded goal of destroying his presidency. It is true that some of the opposition was the natural result of the Republican party trying to regain its footing, after the disastrous two-term presidency of George W. Bush. However, the level of opposition that President Obama has received has been so extreme that we cannot help but wonder if, and how much of it, is driven by racism.
It is undeniable that if President Obama were white, we would not be asking this question, a true sign of how far we still have to go to fulfill Martin Luther King’s dream.