Was He Only Dreaming?: Hoosier Perspectives on Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1975, I opened my fresh new Language Arts textbook and found that some pages had been cut out.  I walked up to my teacher’s desk and his response was,

 “I did that.  It was a story about Martin Luther King.  I don’t want you reading about some nigger who went around stirring up trouble.”

Yesterday, I was talking with an elderly woman who didn’t realize today was a holiday.

“What holiday is it?”

“Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday,” I replied.

“I swear.  What do you have to do to get a day named after you?  He didn’t do nothing.”

This morning, I was talking to a man in his 70s about King’s legacy.

“I know he preached non-violence,” he said, “but as soon as he’d finish his speeches, blacks would go around breaking into stores and stealing stuff.  I don’t care what the history books say.  I saw it on TV.”

While King is celebrated as a saint by nearly all African Americans and a vast majority of white Americans as well, there is still a pervasive racial attitude among some – perhaps those who find themselves on the wrong side of history – that King was anything but heroic.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”   ―  Martin Luther King Jr.

day 154  Martin Luther King jr. Day by ms.Tea

day 154  Martin Luther King jr. Day
from ms.Tea, some rights reserved

46 thoughts on “Was He Only Dreaming?: Hoosier Perspectives on Martin Luther King, Jr.

  1. Wow, its always crazy to hear these stories of blatant racism! These can certainly be shocking. What’s also dangerous are those comments that slip by without notice. These microaggressions set off a ringer in your head, but just barely. You wonder “was that really racist?” and “did they mean it like that?” It’s important to remember that as far as we have come as a nation, there is more to do.

    • Yeah, the racism is still out there. I’ve had the N-word dropped on me while living in one of the most liberal cities on the West Coast. My brother has even been chased by freaking skinheads in broad daylight in the same place. Stupidity still rings true in the minds of some people. The 7 billion people on the planet likely descended from a few thousand modern humans some 160,000 years ago, but yet we always find some ridiculous reason to want to hate or simply kill each other. I might as well call you a cousin for as closely related as we are. My father simply calls racists who they are…ignorant and simply crazy. Can’t fix crazy from without, you’ve gotta want to change it from within. Luckily the younger generations are seeing it for what it is and are trending against racism as more years pass. And the end of segregation and Jim Crow left open the option for races to cross the old boundaries and actually communicate with each other which sparks advancement. Racism still exists in America for certain, but I believe it will die a very slow death eventually.

  2. Amazing and saddening all at once. Thank you for sharing these stories. They should not be taken as disheartening, but rather as reason to create change in the hearts of others.

    • While I don’t think we can create change in the hearts of others, I do agree we should not despair, but with faith and hope move toward peace and justice as Dr. King did.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  3. “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” Martin Luther Kng Jr.

    • I agree it is heart breaking. I also believe it breaks God’s heart. And yes, we need to strive for equality and reconciliation among all.

      Thanks for the visit and comment.

  4. I appreciate the reality you highlight here. I wonder, is racism and hate ever something we’ll get rid of in our own? For me, it’s to continue the work, but also to cry “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.” Acknowledgement of sin’s presence In the world perhaps allows us to deal with people gracefully as we seek justice.

    • I believe you are right. Racial reconciliation is not something we achieve on our own, but something we receive as a gift when we are transformed by Christ. Our part in the process, as you say, is to confess our sin, rely on God’s grace, and repent of the evil of racism that exists within and around us.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Come again any time.

  5. Wow! It is always good to hear another perspective, because we can’t assume that everyone is like minded. It is sad that after all of this time we still have so much work to do to be seen as equals in the eyes of all. Thank you for sharing your experience. Delina Hill-Brooker/Lioness Vizions

  6. Thank you for sharing your experience. Often these “hidden” beliefs are not spoken about. I believe it is important to bring them to light. I also hope that somehow someone’s heart can heal and see things in a new way. Perhaps even by speaking with someone like you…

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I knew there was objection to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday but this completely blows my mind. If only they realized that had the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts not come into being, that America would have imploded from within. No society can survive for long when any of its people are being treated unfairly.

  8. I came over at invitation. This is a topic I feel strongly about, but it’s also a topic that can cause a lot of misunderstanding.

    Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man with a great dream — an American culture where your skin color didn’t matter anymore than your eye color should. (Although my eye color — blue — means this American Indian is accepted in white culture just fine and treated with hostility on certain Indian reservations). Let me respectfully suggest that if he had lived longer, he would have addressed the need for forgiveness. I’m not an MLK expert, but from what I’ve read of his writings he based his non-violent movement in the Scriptures where they say there is neither Greek nor Jew, neither free nor slave … we’re all equal in front of God. Overt racism is pretty much a thing of the past in the US — neo-Nazis aside, who are a tiny fraction of the population. Our president is black. A black man did not become president without significant support from the white population. That should have ended the racism debate. If MILK followed the logical conclusions of Scripture, he would have turned to where those who are wronged are instructed to forgive and move on in Christian love.

    For me (maybe because I do have blue eyes and because I live in the color-blind state of Alaska) my encounters with racism have usually been more about me projecting (thinking I can read someone else’s mind) than others actually being racist. And, the rest — the subtle indications of preference — I think we create more racism by fussing and fuming over those instead of simply letting them go. Familiarity often eases bigotry, but if we constantly bring up the past and what we think someone else is thinking we separate ourselves from one another and continue the very same “us and them” mentality that we’re seeking to put to an end.

    Gently submitted in Christian love. Lela

    • You clearly have passion on the subject. I agree the Christian ethic of forgiveness is where we need to head as we move toward reconciliation, Yet, I do believe just as Jesus confronted the religious favoritism of the Pharisees in his day, we need to point out sin when we see it.

      Thank you for reading my post and composing such an eloquent response. Come back any time.

      In Christ, Tony

  9. Important recollections! Thank you for sharing. And while there is much still to do in reconciliation and healing, those of the family of God will do well in showing the graceful countenance of Christ (in reaching out and in confronting injustice). If they do so, God will invariably use them in leading the way towards the consummation of the dream of Dr. King.

  10. I think we have come a long way. Certainly there are some ignorant, frightened people out there, but don’t let their decibel level be mistaken for numbers. Remember, not only do we have our first black President, but he was also re-elected. Black people have filled the offices of Secretary of State, Attorney General, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Supreme Court Justice…

    Yes, we have a way yet to go, but Martin Luther King Jr. might have taken a little justifiable pride in the strides we have made. At least he did live to see Thurgood Marshall appointed to the Supreme Court, breaking that barrier; and without the Civil Rights movement, that would have been much longer in the making.

    • Thank you for your kind words. I think you are right about Dr. King and President Obama.

      Thank you for visiting my blog and offering such a nice comment. Come back any time.

  11. I didn’t have the time to read all the replies so forgive me if I am repetitive. Being a relativity young man, I wasn’t around for segregation or desegregation for that matter, or the height of the Klu Klux Klan. But I have still seen more than my fair share of racism. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s it wasn’t as bad as it seem to be now or I was just unaware, but it seems with the electing of an African American President the coals of the racism fire have been stoked. How do we inform the uninformed ? How do we better prepare ourselves as a people to not return the hate but take these moments and use them to educate and inform. Ignorance is far more scary than stupidity, because even the unfortunate are willing to make an effort. Thank you for sharing this with us. Bless you and yours.

  12. Thanks for sharing. It is unfortunate that there are those who still put their mouths in motion before putting their minds in gear. While most (if not all) “great” men of history have had some personal flaws, the lesson for us is to take the positive and grow from it. The negative – we are to learn from it and choose a better way.

    Dr. King exemplified courage in the face of severe attacks in order to save a people from certain destruction. Not a black people or a white people. A people. Ultimately, he gave his life so that we could live better lives. That was a tremendous price to pay.

    When people make ignorant comments against Dr. King and his legacy, I feel it is because they cannot separate, in their minds, the image from the man. The man left behind children who would not have their father and a wife with no husband. The image lives on and continues to grow. The man was only 39 years old when he was killed. He deserved a fulfilling life – weddings, grandchildren, more achievements, some disappointments – a life.

    The simple fact that this man took a bullet in the neck so that people would be more respectful of other people is certainly more than “nothing” and is far from “stirring up trouble.” The wonderful thing is more and more people “get it” over those that would prefer to link Dr. King and his true message with looting and trouble.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog! Fascinating! Thank you!

  13. I’m from the Midwest as well, and yes racism exists even here. On Sunday someone said that Dr. King should have been killed sooner. The major events in Civil Rights only happened 50 years ago, only a lifetime for many people. Just because there are laws promoting equality doesn’t mean people’s hearts will change with it. It will take time and work. Thanks for the post!

  14. Thank you for sharing these stunning stories. This week’s combination of MLK Day and the inauguration reminds us that history moves slowly, and in fits and starts. But there would be no way to move forward as a society if stories like these were not recalled and shared. I appreciate your doing that so well.

  15. A really important post for a very blessed day. As a 28-year-old white woman, I’ve been thinking of how accustomed I am, not only to MLK Day being a holiday, but also to integration in general. Today on the train an interracial couple was holding each other before sharing a kiss. Of course, no one batted an eye. Amazing that a matter of decades ago such an action might have put a person’s life in grave danger. We still have a long way to go, but in many ways it’s beautiful to see how far we’ve come.

    • You are right. Even as recently as 1982 (my senior year in high school), I can remember doing a survey and many students as well as teachers were adamently opposed to inter-racial dating.

      Thank you for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughtful comment. Come back again any time.

  16. Very interesting post.
    I have lived in Africa for 7 years. My two closest friends are from that continent.
    I am white, Christian and conservative. Married to a Latina immigrant. I am sick of people assuming I am racist just because I criticize aspects of African-American culture & entertainment (including presidents and politicians). Everyone is free to be offended…
    There are few people these days taking MLK’s words to heart about judging others by the “content of their character” instead of making assumptions.

    Check my MLK poem:
    http://connecthook.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/martin-luther-king/#comments

  17. Wow! These are shocking statements to me. I think I had taken time for granted–assuming time had perhaps removed the hateful/negative perceptions of Dr. King. I definitely don’t believe he was only dreaming though. We’ve come a long way in changing the course of history and it’s a beautiful thing. I think Martin Luther King would celebrate how far we’ve come, yet still continue the fight. The battle against hate and injustice is one that will never be “over,” but it will certainly shape the future for the better if we have more people willing to lead the way in brave love the way he did. Thanks for sharing, Tony.

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