Updated: Jun 4
I was not born in the United States and did not know anything about the division that existed between the races. I learned all about racism in my 8th grade US History Class, and it was a heartbreaking moment. Although my teacher made things very fun for us and dressed up according to the decade she was teaching, the news that she gave me made my eyes water.
‘How dare, someone thinks they are better than the next solely based on the color of the skin?’ I thought.
I could not believe that the American Dream had cracks in it. As a child, I always heard all these success stories about how people could work and get a fair pay and were able to go to school for free and get a quality education in the US. To me, this was supposed to be the country that opens up doors for the underdog and that gave the poor a chance to become successful with hard work and effort. I came here with a bag full of dreams and ready to put in the work to see results.
As the teacher was pacing back and forth, using an upbeat voice and her best storytelling skills she told the class everything about that period, about inequality, segregation, the treatment given to the African Americans, the bullying, name calling, and the deaths. According to her, all this was going on because someone happened to be born with dark skin. When she said this, it was as if the floor had caved in under me. I realized then that this was not the land of milk and honey, and that this land had just recently overcome a very dark period and could still have lingering hate in its crack. After all racist that were alive then were still alive now, I reasoned.
The lesson culminated with the works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. his March on Washington and his ‘I have a Dream Speech’. Hearing such honest and loving words coming from the mouth of this man, who was hated, and spat on by others because of the color of his skin, made me cry. How can someone who received hate from other, can turn around and return love instead? I thought.
That day a sense of admiration and love grew from the teachings of this God Fearing man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I love him for standing his ground, for fighting hate with love and for having the vision that this country can one day be great if it only lets go of its inequities. He had this vision, and he worked hard towards it and lived his life by a set values that were far beyond his current time. In the end, Dr. King died too soon as all great men do. Nonetheless, he died doing something he loved and following his beliefs.
However, his work is not done, and it did not die with him. Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr left the world his legacy and his teachings for us to learn and teach others, he knew “That this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed” that creed being that “all men are created equal”. In his mind and heart, he could see the greatness of the American Dream if only we could let go of hate.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to cash the check, promised to citizens of the Republic and that check was for freedom and liberty of ALL men. The unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for ALL. He contested that The Declaration of Independence did not say ‘if you are this color you get this’ and ‘if you are another color you get the other’. It says ALL MEN.
The creed was that simple, yet so hard for people to understand at that time (and maybe still today) that we are all created the same and should not be treated differently based solely on the color of our skin. To add to that, that our actions are our calling cards and not the tone of our skin. Also, that everyone in this great country deserves a shot at greatness with hard work and dedication and not held back because of skin color.
These things are what makes the land of the American Dream a reality; that land where goals become a reality, quality education is given to all children, and jobs for all, that I heard so much about as a young child. While there are still countries fighting for voting rights, for food, water, electricity, and some still live in a caste system, we have gotten over our biggest obstacle towards fulfilling our creed thanks to Dr. King; thanks to him, this young nation is ahead of most. However, his work is not complete, and it’s still ongoing.
His vision and legacy are something that needs to be passed from generation to generation so that we can educate ourselves and not fall into the same pitfalls as before. We should use his teaching to strengthen our bond, our love, our tolerance for others and continue to put the fear and hatred that comes with racism behind us.
Let the teachings of Dr. King take you out of your comfort zone and guide you to know others regardless of race. Soon, you will see that we are more alike than different. Once we know one another, and we drop our walls, we are less likely to fear or hate our neighbor.
Lets “cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Let’s cash it together.
***PS from Joa 2023: While my heart was in the right place, my enthusiasm and lessons were only superficial because when I wrote this blog, I was still digesting these lessons from white authors, teachers, and historians. Since then, I have learned that when it comes to African American and Black history, it is best to learn from that group. So I have enriched myself with teachings from the Black Diaspora to understand better what racism in America is and how it affects marginalized communities.