Martin Luther King Jr. said to all Americans from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, “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.”
I went through elementary school in Atlanta, Georgia and experienced the civil rights struggle up close and personal. But by the time I left for college, Martin Luther King Jr. was delivering his dream in Washington, D.C., and later marching to Selma.
With a dignity and commitment to peaceful demonstrations, King helped start a healing and fueled hope for a new day of equal rights for all. His marches weren’t designed to agitate nor to give fresh ammunition to the racists wanting to justify their bigotry. Partly due to that legacy, the vast majority of Americans today affirm that black lives do matter to America. They are and must remain part of the colorful tapestry that makes America work.
President George W. Bush speaking at the dedication ceremony of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture proudly noted that the museum does not hide from history—a country founded on the promise of liberty once held millions of people in chains. But he added, “A great nation…faces its flaws and corrects them.”
Of course, as with all societies, some racism exists in every race. But all of us know colleagues, neighbors and friends of different races who are treasured and respected. Besides those we know, there are black Americans in business, politics, the arts, sports, and the professions who are uniformly held in high esteem. Racial differences may be initially obvious, but they fade into irrelevance when you know and respect the person. There is ample reason for black pride in America.
Although within their rights, the “Black Lives Matter” marches and the visible refusal of some black athletes to stand for the national anthem is adversely impacting the opinions of those they’re trying to influence. Although small in number, the continuing media coverage of such displays may be doing more to rekindle bias than to promote progress.
The death of any innocent citizen at the hand of police is a loss for us all. Even though the number of such deaths have been decreasing, all races have had to face such losses. Some have been the result of quick actions and unfortunate reactions. When evidence is there, officers should be held accountable. But no police officer goes out into the community with a desire to kill a civilian today. By following an officer’s directions, most misunderstandings will work their way out.
We need more like the Baltimore mother, Toya Graham, who saw on TV that her 16-year-old son Michael was involved in a violent street protest over Freddie Gray’s death. She went to the demonstration and literally dragged her son home. It’s time for the best and brightest of black Americans to take back their image and live out the patriotic, God-fearing, productive lifestyle that the vast majority live every day.
Don’t let the worst from any race define us. It’s time to proudly raise the American flag in support for freedom and opportunity for all. It’s time to stand against the violence that is destroying public peace, threatening children’s safety, and keeping businesses out of minority communities.
It’s time to stop joining marches that focus on grievances and demanding special Washington programs that trap more and more blacks into government dependency. It’s time for more Black Pride Marches that honor and lift up the responsible, successful black citizens in this great land who are making the American Dream work. Let the best and brightest share their lessons learned that can help others succeed.
Progress continues. President Bush signed the legislation, and President Obama has supported the completion of the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture on the National Mall. It honors not only the history of civil rights but the contribution of black Americans to all facets of our lives.
President Obama speaking after Bush at the opening ceremony said, “Too often, we ignored or forget the stories of millions upon millions of others, who built this nation just as surely, whose humble eloquence, whose calloused hands, whose steady drive helped to create cities, erect industries, build the arsenals of democracy.”
Yes, black lives matter. They have and always will. May we join in applauding black pride for the achievements they have brought to us all!