An interesting phrase, with an equally interesting hashtag, has started to go around: #StayWoke.
This phrase was especially present during the Women’s March after the inauguration of President Trump.
There are many different ways to interpret what it means to “Be Woke;” but I posit, that instead of just focusing on “Being Woke,” we reflect, accept and collectively move past Martin Luther King’s “Dream for America” and wake up and create an action plan.
There have been major changes since Dr. King gave that speech. Many of the acts of overt racism that happened during the Jim Crow South have been outlawed. That era is now almost universally seen and taught as a shameful time in American history. The passing of the Civil Rights Act and the election of the nation’s first Black president led many people to believe the dream has become a reality.
But, today, the truth that the dream is still deferred has become more visible, thanks to the long list of President’s Trump’s racist acts:
- Housing discrimination
- Central Park 5 lie
- Called Mexicans drug dealers
- Ban on Muslims
- Pardoned Joe Arpaio
- Nazis are “very fine people”
- Endorsed slavery-supporter Roy Moore
- Called Black countries “shitholes”
I think it’s important for us as a people to realize it’s time to wake up. We don’t have time to talk about Dr. King’s dream because our waking reality is hell. The emphasis on MLK Day, specifically on rhetoric based in “the dreams of a nation,” is dangerous and uses valuable energy and resources that are needed to bring an end to racism now.
Judging By the Color
Fifty-five years ago, Dr. King dreamt that his children would not being judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. As a nation, we must honestly assess whether that dream has become a promise. .
For too many Americans, the color of your skin still determines the neighborhood you live in, the school you attend, the friends that you have.
Segregated communities is judging people by the color of their skin.
The unequal, racially-segregated educational system we have is judging people by the color of their skin.
Disparate discipline is judging people by the color of their skin.
While judging people by the color of their skin is wrong, not judging them by the color of their skin takes more than ignoring skin color and just “being nice.” It demands equity. Part of Dr. King’s dream was that his Black children would not be judged by the color of their skin; but, also that Black children would have access to the same opportunities as White children.
So as we reflect on Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream speech” this year, let’s appreciate it for its glory and its ability to motivate us to goodness. But let it motivate us out of our “dream state” and “wake us up.”
Right now is the time wake up and get to work on the real mission of equality for all.