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Tastefully edited transcript below:
Hi. I’m Charlie Gilkey from Productive Flourishing. I want to talk about Dr. King, his dream, and how we’re living it.
King’s broad message was about equality, not race. Race was the focal point of massive and obvious inequality, and King – the reluctant leader – campaigned against that incarnation of inequality. Due in large parts to his leadership, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 soon.
I don’t want to weigh in on how far we, as a society, have come. I’ve lived in three different local cultures – the South, the Midwest, and the Northwest – in three different ideological cultures – the world of academia, the world of the military, and the world of business. Asking how far we’ve come as a society will only lend a tentative and weak “it depends.”
When we ask how far we as a society have come, we’re also asking a question that’s both unanswerable and misses a major thrust of King’s point entirely.
King’s message was a call to action for individual people. He inspired individual people to put their beliefs in practice in front of gnashing dogs, firehoses, and batons. He reminded us that our turning a blind eye to inequality and injustice only allows those inequities and injustices to persist and grow.
It was King, after all, who said:
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.
His message is about personal responsibility, not external analysis and observation about the state of society.
Here are better questions to ask, if you want to ask them:
- When was the last time you’ve eaten with someone who doesn’t think, look, talk, dress, and love like you do?
- Do you actively seek out people of different races, nationalities, sexual preferences, religions, and backgrounds to be on your panels, interviews, podcasts, compilations, or events?
- Do the stories you tell your children involve a diversity of heroes, villians, strengths, and challenges so that they see that the world is full of all kinds of people doing great things?
- When you clutch your purse on the street out of fear or avoid sitting by someone who doesn’t look or feel familiar to you, do you recognize that and actively work to reinterpret what you experience?
- Do you have open, loving, curious, and sometimes awkward conversations with your friends about race, sexual preferences, religions, nationality, and disabilities?
The answers to those questions are far more important than any type of assessment of what’s going on in the world.
King’s dream isn’t my dream. The stream of history has flowed many years and we have different realities in front of us. Our current challenge is not that we have police letting dogs loose on people of color, but that the signs of inequality and injustice are far more subtle.
We can’t just be reactive – we must be proactive.
And by “we”, I mean you and me and our partners and our friends and our kids, not the politicians or change organizations that we all too often abdicate the problems of our day to.
King also said
A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.
Let us not be those soft people.
The very best way that we can honor King’s dream is not to celebrate the man and the dream of his day, but to do the work he inspired his generation to do in a way that addresses the realities of our day. We have our work in front of us, and it can be daunting.
One last message from King:
You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.
Take the first step, if you haven’t, and take the next one, if you have.
Thanks for listening and, more importantly, thanks for taking proactive action.
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