As many of us think about Black History Month, our minds germinate in the many accomplishments of African Americans. We celebrate the advances in civil rights that are a blessing to every citizen of the United States. We all enjoy the technological and literary contributions African Americans have made to this nation and around the world.
But still, my heart cannot celebrate. Like the prophet Micaiah in 1 Kings 22:8, I must ask each of us to refrain from our celebrations because the Dream, and the dream of Dr. M. L. King, Jr., has turned into a nightmare.
Eighty years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. M. L. King, Jr. stood under the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial along with more than 200,000 Americans and gave his illustrious I Have a Dream Speech. He spoke of the challenges of the black community then. He spoke of our fathers and mothers manacled to segregation and discrimination. He recounted that African Americans lived on islands of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material wealth. King bemoaned the fact that black parents were exiled in shameful conditions in their own land.
However, none of these conditions were sufficient to diminish the dreams of a suffering people as they demanded their right to walk in the light of a God ordained brotherhood. Dr. King reminded us that these rights were firmly planted in the American dream. They were enshrined in the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence and were solidified in the Constitution of the United States.
But this did not diminish the dreams of a suffering people. And after a nearly endless sea of summers of our discontent we did arrive in the Promise Land. And today, we can say, though not perfectly, every complaint addressed in Dr. M. L. King’s I Have a Dream speech has been addressed by laws enacted in this country. The vaults of opportunity have been opened. We are a free people and for the most part have equal access to justice. Many of the valleys of segregation have been filled as we make straight paths to equality. Currently, we rest in some of the finest hotels in America and around the world. There are no visible signs of, “For Whites Only” in our world. And some of us have moved from small ghettos to large mansions.
However, something happened once we arrived in the Promise Land. We took our eyes off the DREAMER—God—and the dream fell apart. While it’s true that the sprouts of the dream could be found in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, its roots were deeper than that. The roots were deeply planted and drew their nourishment from the heart of God.
When God said, “Let us make man in our image,” He was providing us with the ontological and biological basis for equality. When the Lord reminded us through Paul, in Acts 17 that He took, “… one man and one woman and birthed all the people of the earth,” He was giving us a family basis for equality.
When our Lord told us that we should esteem others better than ourselves, He was laying the moral foundation for equality. When He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, He was giving us His dream of equality. Our Lord gave us the divine ethic of treating others as we would want to be treated; He was giving us His Deific ethics. When He prompted us to never forget where these blessing flowed from, He was reminding us that our rights have an unalienable basis not in the product of humanity’s best thinking, but in Him.
However, after we arrived in the Promise Land, we concluded that civil rights were the only goal and not our relationship with the DREAMER. We ignored the character God was forging in us while we were in route to that land.
After we arrived in the Promise Land, we bought into the idea that our blessings flowed from the White House, from the kingdom of Washington D. C. This automatically begins to move us from the Kingdom of God to the world of secular men.
Thus, the Nightmare begins.
The final metamorphosis would take place in our character as we comported to our new gods. For we must remember, no nation and no people are greater than the gods they worship. We ignored the admonishments of Rev. Daniel Alexander Payne, the great AME pastor who outlined our responsibilities as free men and women, after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Payne encouraged us in his letter written in 1862 to:
Enter the family of Holy freedom: not to lounge in sinful indolence, not to degrade yourselves by vice, or to corrupt society by licentiousness… but to the enjoyment of a well regulated liberty…. Welcome the habits of industry and thrift-to duties of religion and piety- to be more than religious; we urge you to be godly…. As you are now free in body, so now seek to be free in soul and spirit, from sin and Satan… of the children take special care. Heaven has entrusted them to you for a special purpose… Keep the children in school…. Let the education of your children penetrate the heart…. Get money by diligent labor. Work …. Shun no work that will bring you an honest penny…. Now if we ask who has sent us this great deliverance? The answer shall be, the Lord; the Lord God Almighty, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.
The Civil Rights Movement was not just a social movement for equality; it was a spiritual journey toward Kingdom morality. And because we have forgotten this, we are living the nightmare.
Speaking as an African American to my African American brothers and sisters, I would say that today we are living the “unspeakable horrors” that Dr. King spoke about though of a different sort and in many cases self–inflicted. We are living the nightmare when:
- We are 13 percent of the population, but make up 30 percent of the abortions. Presently, we have murdered 16 million of our children since the passage of Roe V. Wade.
- This means we are suicidal. We are doing legally what the K.K.K, the Arian Nation, and other racist organizations could not do illegally—we are exterminating ourselves. We are killing the black bodies.
- We are living the nightmare when it can be proven that white slave owners did a better job of keeping black families together than free African American men and women, according to research by Professor Walter E. Williams of George Mason University.
- We are living the nightmare by killing black families. In our household there is no better than a 50/50 chance that there will be a father in the home.
- Seventy-two percent of our children are born out of wedlock. In the majority of cases this means that our children are born into poverty.
- The African American community experiences higher rates of high school dropouts, street gang activity, and make up 50 percent of the homicide cases though we are 13 percent of the population.
But I do not want to leave you on this mountain of despair. There is hope!
As long as there is God, there is hope. As surely as we find ourselves turning away from God, the solution is turning back to Him. It is as simple and as difficult as that.
Future blogs will strive to address this critical concern. Though the best starting place has been outlined in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15:
“If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be opened and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place….”