Martin Luther King, Jr. provided my children and husband a lovely day off work and school. But much more importantly, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. introduced the possibility of change to this world. He has always been a hero of mine and I even get choked up writing about him. Dr. King had the courage to ask the hard questions when no one else would and face absolute horrors with true love and peace. I have read many of his sermons and highly recommend you check them out online or at the library as they are full of wisdom and insights on a range of topics. Reading them will want you to be a better person. I promise. But let’s talk about his most famous speech (please read the whole thing if you haven’t recently), and more specifically, one of the most famous quotations:
“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. I have a dream today!”
I raise my glass and offer a toast “To the Dream!” *Clink* Because, ultimately, this is my dream, too. This speech was given in 1963… over 52 years ago (needless to say, I was not alive). In 52 years, this nation has come a long way, but Dr. King’s dream is not yet a reality. It is still a dream. And that’s the saddest part.
Racial economic disparities in the United States are large and getting larger.
According to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of the Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, White net worth is 13x greater than Black net worth and 10x greater than Hispanic net worth. Since the end of the Recession, the wealth gap has grown! This is horrible news! In 2013, the average net worth of a White household was $141,900 while the average net worth of a Black household was just $11,000 and the average net worth of an Hispanic household was $13,700.
There are extreme differences in lifetime earnings as well. The typical white person earns $2 million during their working lifetime. Hispanics earn half of that at just $1 million total and Blacks right in between at $1.5 million.
Health disparities are significant as well. Health impacts income capabilities. Study after study show that there is a significant health gap in this country. Just in September, a study was published looking at kids with Appendicitis in the ER. Blacks kids got less pain medications even when the study controlled for region “suggesting a different threshold for treatment” as the study concludes. WHY? They’re kids! They’re in pain!
The point here is that we still have a great deal of work to do on Dr. King’s behalf. As I raise my glass in toast of his dream, I ready myself and my children to prepare that world he envisions. Because it’s not fair. And it’s not right. As a very white family on our road to financial independence, we have acknowledged that the freedom to pursue that path is not available to everyone. It’s hard to have that same faith of change that Dr. King maintained. And as Dr. King ends that famous speech:
“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”