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Where Do We Go From Here?

Three years ago I read the last book written by Dr. Martin Luther King entitled, "Where Do We Go From Here?" I found this book to be deeply prophetic considering it was published only a few months before he was assassinated. The following is an excerpt from his book in the chapter Chaos or Community:

"“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look at thousands of working people displaced from their jobs with reduced incomes as a result of automation while the profits of the employers remain intact, and say: “This is not just.” It will look across the oceans and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing to prevent us from paying adequate wages to schoolteachers, social workers and other servants of the public to insure that we have the best available personnel in these positions which are charged with the responsibility of guiding our future generations. There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American citizen whether he be a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid or day laborer. There is nothing except shortsightedness to prevent us from guaranteeing an annual minimum—and livable—income for every American family. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from remolding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.”

As a Black man in America, I have worked hard to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to me by Dr. King and others who championed the movement for equality. While we are far short of this goal in America, there are people who labor relentlessly to ensure that Dr. King's dream becomes reality for all people in our nation. However, his question found in this book title has ambiguity that continues long after his death. Where do we go from here in our communities, education, marketplace, government, and the church. Why does Sunday remain the most segregated time in church history, yet we call ourselves Christians? Why is there disparity in our educational system preventing all children from receiving the same quality of education? Why must we continue to lobby for the right to vote in government? Why does there remain such financial inequity in business among entrepreneurs and classes of ownership? Why can't certain races of people move into neighborhoods without seeing for sale signs on lawns of homes the next day? The question, "Where Do We Go From Here?" will only be answered when we are ready to have the courageous conversation about equity founded on the preamble of our constitution;

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

I am not sure how Dr King would respond to current events in our society. I am sure that he would be disappointed in the way we live, work, and relate with each other. I am confident that he would wonder if there was meaning to his sacrifice. I do not doubt that he would look at some Black Americans and weep at their failure to take full advantage of the opportunities forged in blood, sweat, and tears. This day is far more than reflection of a dream. It is a day for each of us to ponder the question, "Why is his dream not reality?"

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