50 years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech (read King’s speech here) on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. during the March on Washington. A little less than 10 years later, I was born. Although I was born in Brooklyn, New York, it wasn’t long after that my family moved into the suburbs of Connecticut into a fairly affluent, bedroom community of New York City. We lived in a house owned by the church where my father was the pastor, otherwise, we would have never been able to afford to live in such a town.
But I did not experience poverty. I did not experience prejudice. I did not experience racism. I did not even have a taste of what King and so many other African Americans have tasted and experienced. I never drove my car at night with fear of being pulled over, beaten, and arrested, or worse yet, strung up. I was never passed over for a job because of the color of my skin. Instead of poverty and prejudice, I knew privilege.
King had a dream, a vision, about what our country could be. King had a dream that equality could happen. In the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict and the senseless murder of an Australian college student, I wonder how much of King’s dream we have realized. What would he say if he were here today? Would he feel like we have made strides in the half a century since he stood on those steps and spoke to the masses?
One of the most important lessons for me to learn and remember is the price of freedom. I often wonder if we think about it as much as we should. Thousands have fought and died in order to preserve the freedoms in our country. What is our response when we think about that sacrifice? Many have given their lives, whether just with time or with their blood as well, in order that we might experience the freedom of equality in this country. Have we stopped to think about those sacrifices? If we have not ever benefited from those sacrifices, how do we respond to those who need to realize those benefits? There is a price paid for us to experience salvation, and that price was paid by Jesus Christ. What is our response to that sacrifice?
Freedom isn’t free, it always comes at a price. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life in order that his fellow African Americans might experience the privileges that so many others in this country have experienced. I wonder what he would think about the progress we have made. In some ways, and to some perspectives, it might seem as if we’ve made some strides. To others, it probably feels more like three steps forward and two steps back. What do you think?