For That Journey To The Promised Land
Today is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday. There will be a lot said about what he did for black people in general and for America as a whole. Looking back into history is easy to see that black people have made great strides in America and America herself has made some moves toward reconciliation for her oppression of black people.
On April 3, 1968, Rev. King gave a speech where he told the congregation that he had seen the promised land. His comments were more of a premonition than they were a speech.
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
The very next day he was assassinated while standing on the balcony of a Memphis hotel. That was 37 years ago. The question is have we reached the mountain top? Have we seen the promise land that Rev. King spoke of?
My guess would be that the answer to that question is dependent on who you ask. Many Americans will say yes, not only has black people reached the mountain top, they’ve gone into the valley of the promised land and made a space for themselves in America. They will note black progression in business, education, home ownership, jobs and general acceptance. Others will say no and they will point out the disparities in education, health care, poverty and crime.
There are many facts supporting each. My take is that in general, black people are on that mountain top. But as long as the disparities exist, we as a people cannot claim to have made it to the promised land.
When Rev. King was on Meet the Press in 1967, he said that it was unfair to ask a bootless man to pull himself up by the bootstraps. In 2005, many state that there is no reason for black disparity outside of the moral deficiencies of black people. In essence, we have been given our boots. Those with this world view do not look at the deficiencies within the structure of our society that hinder the progression of many blacks.
The educational system is a very flawed insomuch as those in poverty receive an education that is inadequate to those in affluent or middle class areas. Poverty is increasing while the government is cutting funding for anti-poverty programs and social nets that have kept many on the threshold from falling into poverty. The criminal justice system warehouses black men then return them to the streets with no opportunity to advance and many find themselves back behind bars.
Certainly, there are moral aspects to many problems within the black community. There is a mindset that celebrates thugism as though it were a revolutionary movement rather than a self-deprecating ideology. Many black children lack an intact family structure and many of single mothers lack the tools to prepare their children for success. So I am not saying that everything is the fault of “DA MAN”.
But I am saying that those that live in poverty and send their children to schools that are not prepared to educate them properly and must deal with a justice system that does not render justice fairly and must deal with a political structure that is not interested in supporting the few safety nets that are available are vulnerable members of our society. I would say that they have not seen the mountain top and they certainly do not know what the promised land looks like.
There is a lot of work left but I am hopeful for black people. Many of us have found a way to rise above our circumstances as that has always been the case with black people. However, as long as the disparities exist, then there is much work left. And those of us that are prepared to live lavishly in the promised land should not do so until we know that there is a clear path for others to follow. I know some will never make it due to their inaction or self-destructive ways, but many more can make it than are doing so now. It is not our job to carry them over the mountain top to the promised land, but we should find it in our hearts to at least give them a nice pair of boots for the journey.