Written by Teodrose Fikre
I know I’m about to venture into third rail territory and risk provoking the ire of many for daring to question the orthodoxy we have been conditioned to accept. Nonetheless, it is good to rock the boat a bit and get conversations started, so I push on forward. Last evening, I saw a couple of kids of different hues playing together. I paused and saw how one kid was leading the games; I’ll give you a hint, that kid was lighter than the rest.
If this was any other day I would have noticed the kids playing and just smiled at the innocence that children have we as adults should emulate. But yesterday, perhaps spurned by a dialogue about race I had with a friend earlier in the morning, I could not help but notice the level of confidence one child had while the one child who is “black” was following along to the whims of the “white” child.
On my way home, I started to reflect about Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech”; specifically the part where he says:
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.
This dream is asking for a fundamental human right to be accorded to “black folk” in America and for “black” children to live in a nation where their hopes are not hobbled by discrimination and hatred. The dream is vision where we are accepted as equal by others and given the same opportunity that others are given in America.
The scene last night though made me pause for I realized a omission in Martin Luther King’s dream and the inherent weakness that is at the core of the civil rights struggle. Too many of us are focused outward trying to get others to accept us and in the process validate that we have equal value and significance. But if we don’t realize our own value, if we don’t arrive at a place where we see ourselves as equal, all else is empty for we will never feel worthy if we don’t know our worth within.
Martin Luther King’s dream needs to be deferred until we have honest conversations within our communities and start to heal from the past. The time for being reactionary is passed, how much longer will we continue marching and protesting demanding to be valued when we can spend that time building value within ourselves and storing up wealth within our communities.
The key to liberation comes in our minds before it will ever come from without. I too dream of a day where “white” and “black” children will be able to walk hand in hand and be judged according to their character instead of their color. But if we don’t understand that we are worthy and instead find worth by measuring ourselves to others, the lack of self-worth and self-love will continue to be perpetuated on a cyclical basis.
No amount of protest can imbue in a child that she is equal if she does not know she is just as valuable as the next child. If two children are walking hand in hand and one child feels less significant than the other, that child will be getting led. There is no equality to be found when people are being led by others.