But …what has happened to King’s dream of an America where “children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character?” In his 1963 letter from the Birmingham Jail, Dr. King reminded us that America is one nation…we are NOT divided: “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
[tweetable]Today on what would have been Dr. King’s 88th birthday, I worry that we are living in the Divided States of America. Several African American pastors for whom I have the highest respect and admiration have told me that they are VERY discouraged about the racial divide in America. They fear that no one is “hearing” their concerns about racism and injustice. I believe that we desperately need to convene a series of national conversations on race so that people from different racial ethnic backgrounds can start to understand each other by hearing each other’s perspective.
I had an experience as a pastor in New York City that points out the importance of such conversations. Coming back from a meeting one night, our Executive Pastor and I saw police on the front steps of our church building. Seeing the police, my colleague said out loud, “Oh no! Whatever is happening on those steps will be made much worse by the presence of the police.” On the other hand, I assumed that the police presence would make things better. My African American colleague told me that had recently been frisked by the police, on a Saturday morning, while running errands in jeans and a sweat shirt, because he fit a racial profile. I have never been frisked by the police. When we shared our life experiences, we not only started to appreciate each other’s point of view, but we became better friends too.