Tuesday, January 17, 2006

They Have No Dream

The third Monday of January has been declared to be a day to honor the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Yet, as I watched, listened to, or read about various MLK Day speeches from around the country, I could not help thinking- how they dishonor him, his memory, and his life's work. The worst example of dishonoring Dr. King in my eyes was Senator Hillary Clinton speaking at a gathering in one of Harlem's black churches. In her speech Mrs. Clinton compared the U.S. Congress to a plantation. How dare her!! Beside her ludicrous statement, that “Congress is like a Plantation because dissenting voices are squelched," the mere fact that a white woman of privilege, and a member of a fraternity of privilege would compare that fraternity to a slave working on a plantation is an insult. If voices are squelched Senator, how on earth are you standing there in all of your pomp freely speaking these things? Let's see, lynching, castration, flogging, tar and feathering, on a plantation in the anti-bellum South on the one hand, and getting paid a six figure salary and delivering speeches before cameras in New York City on the other, I can see where she might think the two are the same.

As offensive as Senator Clinton's words are, even more offensive is the fact that there are those in the black community who would invite and allow her to advance her personal political agenda in this way and on this occasion. What has happened to black leadership? Are they so emasculated that they now a need white women to tell us what to think? And on the day honoring a black, male hero? Are there no black voices, especially male voices, to give us hope, to give us vision?

Let me also share with you about a website I was referred to by an acquaintance who actually thought this was a fitting site to honor MLK Day. The name of the web site is, Remembering Segregation. I assume that this site feels it is honoring Dr. King's memory by reminding us of segregation and telling us that things are no better today. What the site seems to have forgotten is that the most famous speech made by Dr. King spoke of "a Dream." I guess they have either forgotten or have never known what a dream is.

There are two types of people in the world. There are those who remain stuck in the past who will never catch a vision for the future. These people will be the easily manipulated and remain enslaved by fear, hatred, and ignorance until they and their posterity are rendered completely disabled mentally and spiritually. This is not "the Dream" Dr. King spoke of, it is a nightmare. Then there are those who with great vision and faith are too busy seeing what can be reality, and too busy believing what one day will be reality, to be held back by what has been and may still be the case. These individuals work tirelessly, believing that the best way to improve the lot of their people is found in improving their individual lot in life. They pass this vision, passion and work ethic on to their posterity. This is what a real dream is; something that is not yet reality, but that we believe one day will be.

Dr. King did not ask us to remember slavery, or the old days of brutal oppression. He asked us to hope, dream and to work for a better nation. His idea of this dream and his view from the mountain top came from his reading of another great leader of an oppressed race of people. Moses stood on a mountain top looking into a distant, promised land as well. That “promised” land was occupied by others who were opposed to his people, and had to be fought for. The taking of that land was hard and many lives were lost in the process, but the dream and their faith kept them fighting for it until they won it.

Such thinking as Senator Clinton's, the web site "Remember Segregation," and others like it fosters, is extremely detrimental to the well being of individuals and to an entire race of people. Let us honor Dr. King and his memory by continuing to dream, to hope, to believe and to work for a better day.

They may have no dream, but I do. Do you?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

With Friends Like These

I could not help thinking of the old addage "With friends like these, who needs enemies" in reading about the Florida Supreme Court's decision today to deny public funds for private school vouchers. The Miami Herald today reported: "The Florida Supreme Court threw out the state's voucher system that allows some children to attend private schools at taxpayer expense, saying Thursday that it violates the state constitution's requirement of a uniform system of free public schools." Sounds good does it not. But there is one problem with this. If there existed a uniform system of free public schools there would be no need for vouchers. The whole reason the voucher issue is an issue, is that there is a great disparity in the quality of schools in the public school system in Florida and frankly nationwide.

As I read I could not help thinking how incredibly ignorant the anti-voucher arguments sounded. I could not help thinking, "are these people really this ignorant or just blatantly deceptive?" Here are a few examples.

"The ruling was a victory for public schools across the state and nation, said Ron Meyer, lead attorney for a coalition, including a statewide teachers union, that challenged the voucher program.

It means that Florida's taxpayers will not be forced to pay for schools which are unaccountable," Meyer said.

Here the lawyer for the teacher's unions is claiming victory for the schools. No mention about the students or parents whose kids are held as slaves to that system. He then says that tax money will not pay for unaccountable schools. Are you kidding me? That is exactly what has been happening and will now continue to happen. These public schools, free from competition with private schools, will feel no need to be accountable to anyone except the teacher unions. That is how we got to where we are today.

Interestingly, although 700 children from poor, and mostly black, failing schools will be forced back onto the "plantation," on constitutional grounds, the decision does not affect over 30,000 other voucher programs for poor and disabled students. Now my inquisitive mind asks why one program can be unconstitutional while another is not? I will give you a hint. The vouchers in this case allow children to go to schools where they may hear God mentioned.

In the end, this sounds too much like decisions handed down by Democratic Party controlled courts in pre-emancipation days and under Jim Crow. It is the exact same type of thinking, if one can call it thinking. I can also hear the New Uncle Toms chiming in on the side of this decision to keep these children and their parents on the plantation. The real question is, will these families and others like them remain silent or will they rise up. I certainly hope they choose to not remain silent, and that we will sit, walk and stand with them in this struggle.