“I have a dream” amidst church burnings and dragging deaths

mlk jr

I was three years old in a small town of the North Woods of Minnesota when that speech took place at the Lincoln Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. In growing up, I never knew anything about racism in the sense of white or black. There was a Jewish family on our street. Their son Neil, a few of months older than me, was a good friend. Little did I know at the time that I had a long Jewish heritage (mom, grandmother, great-grandmother…). They invited me to a Passover meal. I thought it was all wonderfully mysterious. If anything, I was put off by division among Christians. I was and am Catholic.

Since then, I’ve often met up with violent racism and bigotry and am always sickened by it. I’ve met plenty of it down in Louisiana, plenty in New York, and most abundantly here in the back ridges of the National Forests of Western North Carolina, where my parish is spread out among three of the most remote counties. Plenty of KKK. I feel it in a personal way, as the KKK would just as soon kill a Catholic as a black man, or kill a Jew as a black man. I’m Catholic and a Jew and hate racism with a deep passion.

One deeply ignorant fellow had me cornered in the back of a certain back-woods mechanic shop some months ago menacingly accusing me of being a n*****-lover. Fortunately, I can handle myself in such situations. Another, a civilly powerful fellow, who should know better, boasted to me with great pride as he leaned back in his over-sized office chair just how it is that a black man could easily get himself killed without any recrimination for the murderers. Those who burned down our little Catholic church near the Court House in Robbinsville some decades ago would surely only be in their mid-late 60s now. Those who dragged a black man from Robbinsville for 12 miles to the county border at the Topton bridge – at which point they cut loose whatever was left – would surely only be in their mid-late 60s by now. But more than this, Latinos are the new black men, as it were, and since my little parish boasts of a lively Latino membership, there is another edge to some of the idiocy that one might encounter on a day to day basis.

So, do I share Martin Luther King Jr’s dream? Yes, I do. I make it my own for those of whatever color, of whatever religion, of whatever background or ethnicity. Jesus redeemed all and desires that the many be saved. He wants us to share with others the greatest love of our lives, Christ Jesus, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception.


Filed under Racism

3 responses to ““I have a dream” amidst church burnings and dragging deaths

  1. sanfelipe007

    Even after countless hearings, that speech still brings tears to my eyes. a relentless plea that builds into the crescendo of Thanksgiving to God.

  2. pelerin

    One of the delights of the internet is being able to follow up a pece of information and find out more.

    Although I was 20 when Martin Luther King made his famous speech, the only piece I could remember was the ‘I have a dream’ section – perhaps that was the only piece shown on the English news at the time. Googling further I have found an interesting article from the Guardian explaining that the ‘I have a dream’ section was almost left out of the speech. Strange to think that that is now the most famous part.

    One of my oldest and dearest friends discovered only a few years ago that she was descended from a slave. She had been researching her family tree and of course came to a dead end as her slave ancestor had had to take the surname of his ‘owner’ thus his own surname and origins had vanished for ever.

    I am shocked to learn that the KKK is still in existence as I thought that they were now part of history.

  3. meshugunah

    While I was substitute teaching, tried to explain to some students why I regarded Kunta Kinte of Roots fame as a hero (reflecting on Pelerin’s friend’s search, above….) They took great umbrage and demanded a public apology; refusing to see that, had friend Kinte relinquished his mind, heart, and soul while his body was controled by others, we would never know his name!

    They also didn’t “get it” that my grandparents and parents regarded Dr King as one scary dude – fear of change, mostly, in retrospect. These are the same children who share classroom space with friends of all ethnicities and religions from all over the world, and take that for granted as normal.

    KKK and others of that ilk will not disappear so long as the Adversary has willing followers! But, we followers of Mary’s Divine Son are promised that, if we perservere, HE has prevailed!

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