By Jamari Jordan
Every third Monday in January, the black race finds itself in a conundrum. We celebrate a man whose accomplishments, legacy, and impact cannot even be put into words. Martin Luther King Jr. was not only a husband and father, but ultimately a inspiration to us all.
He, like so many countless civil rights activists, gave us hope when we had no reason to believe. Dr. King believed, and his faith never wavered. Through all the police harassment, public threats to his family, and a stubborn, hateful society rooting for his failure, he never gave them the satisfaction. In fact, he did just the opposite.
Now, in 2015, we celebrate our 29th MLK Day, but we have to answer the question that has been swept under the rug for the previous 28 years. Would MLK be pleased with where we are? In my opinion, any answer but yes is absurd.
The Voting Rights Bill will celebrate its 50th anniversary later this year. Think about that for a moment. Just 50 years ago, we couldn’t vote, an unalienable right explicitly stated in the United States Constitution. My mother is 52. In one person’s lifetime, that much growth can take place. Imagine how much society will grow during our lifetime.
I don’t know if this is the promise land, but we are in route to the destination. I understand that things are far from perfect, but we have come so far. I know while some of you are reading this you are saying we can’t get complacent and must move forward. I agree. However, every now and then it is okay to stop and smell the roses.
50 years ago, a black person couldn’t even get served at a diner, sit in the front of a bus, or attend school next to white children. We were the help. We could barely own property. Now look at us.
Dr. King wanted us to have a fair chance and opportunity to succeed. We have that and so much more. So much good is being done inside the black community but most will never know about it. Instead, we focus on the negatives.
No one is more critical of the black race than ourselves. Nothing is ever good enough it seems. If you are going to continue to criticize and demean your race, why are you upset when other races do so as well?
I’m choosing to focus on the positives. Contrary to belief, we have more men in college than in the jail cell. Our talents are not only limited to what we can do between the lines of a football field or a nice jump shot. We are not angry. We are not lazy. We are proud people and it’s time we hold our heads high.
We shouldn’t have to lose our culture to succeed. I am not going to apologize for who I am, nor should anyone else. I embrace my flaws. It’s easy to point out the flaws in a situation or a person, but it takes skill to appreciate them along side success. Our imperfectness makes us perfect.
I am living proof of MLK’s dream. I’m the black kid who heard freedom ring from the top of Stone Mountain. I’m attending the University of Georgia, a predominantly white institution. UGA is a place that is less than 7% African American, and black males make up less than 3%. Yet, here I am pursuing my dreams at my dream school because of MLK’s dream. If that’s not powerful, power doesn’t exist.
There are countless stories just like mine, not only on campus, but also around the country. We have black children who are the first ones in their entire family to attend college. We have black men and women breaking barriers in the fields of business, medicine, law, and a variety of disciplines. I mean we have a beautiful black family in the White House.
From a time when civil rights leaders had to beg to have a brief phone call with a president to hear issues, now we have Barack Obama in the Oval Office making those phone calls to oppressed people. I remember election night in 2008. The crowd chanting “Yes, We Can,” and Jessie Jackson was beside himself with emotion as tears fell to the ground.
Dr. King’s dream was realized. Obama is not Martin. There will never be another Martin, but that night Obama inspired people in a familiar manner. White children would be told they could be anything, an astronaut, doctor, or even president.
For black children, those weren’t tangible dreams, and some would argue they still aren’t. But for me, on that fall night in November 2008, it was finally okay for a black teenager from Stone Mountain, Georgia to dream too.
While we do have black teens dying at the hands of the police, a community that seems to lack an identity, and self-hate and vainness among our own race, we are living MLK’s dream and he would be so proud. We may not be at the end of his dream, but I promise you we are close.