I’ve been having some very strange dreams lately.
Last week I dreamt — no joke — that I was defending my home from an oncoming horde of Goblins, hell bent on taking it over.
When I awoke I thought “Wow that’s weird.” I shrugged it off, mostly. Chalked it up to watching Lord of the rings one too many times. Possibly playing too much Zelda Breath Of the Wild.
The very next night I had a similar dream. Only this time I wasn’t fending off Goblins, but white supremacists, neo-nazis, Klan, and Q-Anon enthusiasts.
It was if my brain had said “OK. Kevin didn’t get the hint the first time. Alright. We are done with metaphor. Is this crystal clear now?”
People like to talk about dreams on this day. Folks, I want to say that in order to realize the dream, we need to first dispel the nightmare. Which will take a mass awakening of those who still remain asleep (passively, or willfully) to the injustices of inequality. I’m quoting myself here, but I’ve said this before: When enough white people in this country want racism to be over — it will be. Believe that.
King reminds us that “There must be a recognition on the part of everybody in this nation that America is still a racist country,” that “White Americans must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society.”
There are some that would call this line of reasoning “White Guilt”. I never liked that term. I think “White Responsibility” works much better. What’s the difference?
Guilt points fingers. Guilt blames and it shames. The focus of guilt is to punish. It is past-focused.
Responsibility on the other hand uplifts. It calls to action. It is future-focused.
So I’d like for everyone here today to consider erasing “White Guilt” from their vocabulary and instead replace it with “White Responsibility”. When someone accuses you of sending them on the White Guilt trip, remind them of our shared responsibility to make this a better world. Remind your friend. Remind your co-worker. Remind your candidates. Remind your relatives. Remind yourself.
Ours is the task of rousing those who don’t wish to be roused. To awaken those that prefer the nightmare.
So we continue to educate. Both ourselves and others. The more people who hear our dialogue and view our lived example, the better. There’s a saying that if you repeat a lie enough times, it will start to be believed. I think that’s fitting for these times. The good news is — that same logic holds for the truth.
We continue to act. We seek out opportunities to do so.
We continue to reflect. Each and every one of us, myself included, can take a hard look at how bias affects us. Continue to examine our own actions and inactions, in order to learn how to correct course when necessary.
Because as King said — “The time is always ripe to do right.”
The necessary work is hard sometimes. Harder to spot other times. It won’t always come in obvious forms like wanna be dictators who incite violence in the name of making America “great” (white) again. It wont always be as obvious as someone who storms the Capitol sporting supremacist tats and Bison Horns. It might come in the form of a relative, a candidate, a coworker, or a friend.
Last time I stood here talking to you all, I told you a story about my dad. And how a bullet from a cop changed his life, and by extension, mine.
Today I’d like to give a nod to my mom. Mom knew the Kings well, because she was babysitter for their children. So when I knew I’d be speaking here today I asked Mom to weigh in.
“Mom, what thoughts might he have had about the events that transpired this year? The pandemic and its impact on all of our communities, but especially our communities of color? A historic election? The new energy this year brought to demonstrating, the calls for reform reaching critical mass, and the reaction from the opposition up to and including the events of last week?”
Mom said to me, “I think it’s summed up well on their holiday card I showed you.” So, with mom’s blessing, I offer you these words sent to her, on her holiday card from the Kings.
Mind you, while I don’t want to alter their original text, I do want to call attention to the terms “Men of honor” and “Mankind” — and say that I’d like for you to feel free to mentally substitute in your preferred gender-neutral term for those, keeping in mind how long ago these words were written.
“This Season a rebirth of ancient values heralds a new day for mankind
New Systems of justice and equality are being born. Let us nourish this new life with love and brotherhood
Men of honor are groping to replace the habit of war with the fulfillment of peace. Let us renew this search as a united family of all men and nations
If we follow the spirit of this Season, we shall awaken from a midnight of despair to a glorious morning of peace and good will.”
“If I had to guess — this is what they’d be thinking right now” mom explained. “Even despite everything that’s happened this year.”
I hope she’s right — and that these words end up being as prophetic as when he said “We will be marching…and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.”
“They were nothing if not hopeful.” Mom said.
I’m hopeful too. Seeing all of you reinforces that hope.
Because while we’ve seen some terrible things this year, we’ve also seen progress. Looking at mainstream media outlets starting to call a spade a spade, a coup a coup, racism, an attack on the capitol, an attack on the capitol, racism. Seeing more and more youth get involved, influence their peers to take action. Seeing older folks listening to their kids and grandkids and working hard to break habits formed decades ago in an entirely different America.
We see you trying. We see you working. We appreciate it.
Because my dream is to affirm my humanity.
My dream is that your dream is to recognize that affirmation.
My dream is that your dream is to end my nightmares.
You can see that the world is very different from the last time we celebrated this day. What I’d love — is for the WORLD to see — how YOU are different.