Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s I have a Dream Speech. In that speech, Dr. King, eloquently and powerfully, set forth his dream of justice, equality and freedom arising from a land of slavery and hatred.
The speech is widely hailed as a masterpiece of rhetoric. If you haven’t listened to it, you should.
During my Seattle visit this past weekend, my friend Joshua took me to the Occupy Seattle site. While we were there, a comedian entertained for a while, whose name I didn’t catch. At one point, the comedian, an African-American, began to talk about racism.
Although he didn’t use exactly these words, he talked about racism in terms of our failure to see people for who they are individually. “I used to think all Asians look alike,” he quipped. “Then I met my friend Jack, who is Asian. After that, I saw another Asian person and saw, “That’s not my friend Jack. That is someone else. Asians no longer all liked alike to me.”
Short, straightforward comedic line, but one that conveys a real truth. It is easy to think, “All blacks are ___” or “All Asians are ___” or “All homosexuals are ___” when we don’t know any blacks, Asians or homosexuals. But once we begin to meet and interact with individuals, our generalizations – often negative ones – begin to fall away.
The prescription is pretty obvious.