The video of Dr. Martin Luther King's August 28, 1963, "I Have a Dream" speech did not capture the most important element that day. It did capture and recreate King's passionate and vivid summary of America's fearsome terrorism of racial oppression. However, it could not capture and recreate for new generations the perspective from which we Americans with dark-brown skin color viewed the events of that day. Mostly, we responded to it from the bulwark of self-images of dignity, reason, and morality that shielded our humanity from contamination by America's racist culture of brutal emotional and physical terrorism.
Without doubt, King was one of the world's most effective advocates for freedom achieved by nonviolence. Nevertheless, beliefs that a few compelling leaders are responsible for freedom is a big obstacle to gaining and preserving it. This belief makes people complacent to the duty of everyone in society to defend all encroachments on freedom. It is noteworthy that Americans of all skin colors attended that grand march for freedom on Washington D.C. August 28, 1963.
Just as people wrongly credit King for all successes of the Modern Civil Rights Movement, he and most Americans wrongly credit President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation for freeing American slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation says in part:
"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free;"
Some slave states did not rebel against the Union. Therefore, the proclamation did not free nearly a million people enslaved within States that remained loyal to the Union. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution approved by the States in 1865 banned slavery everywhere in the nation.
I do not make this observation to lessen the importance President Lincoln's contribution to ending slavery and promoting freedom. Neither do I want to expand it. I am sure freeing four millions slaves by his proclamation-however effective only where the Union Army prevailed- was an impetus for States later improving the 13th Amendment. However, within the idea of presidential wartime authority to end slavery in enemy lands to hinder its war effort lurks the specter of support for presidential to enslave some of his people to strengthen his war effort. I am skeptical of the security of any freedom asserted on the authority on one person or government official.
Often, I hear the fearful lament, "We "black" people received our freedom from the 14th Amendment that government can revoke, but "white" people have freedom by birth and are safe from having it revoked." This is the type fear people endure from ignorance and why they should know the true source of their freedoms.
Section 1 of the 14th Amendment says, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the States where they reside." Therefore, all Americans receive citizenship the same way, and retain freedom by the truths stated in the Declaration of Independence of rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness." However, culture and not the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution decides freedom.
Culture decides how society interprets and enforces laws. Therefore, neither laws nor constitutional mandates have meaning in an immoral culture without integrity. A few years after the States approved the 14th Amendment; the U.S. Supreme Court supported the prevailing cultural idea of different races that should remain separate, but equal. This Court decision created the foundation for laws of racial segregation. This decision is one example how culture decided the meaning of laws, no matter the Constitution clearly names natural born and naturalized as the only legitimate categories government may use to decide citizens' rights. Probably, the name Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would not be an international symbol of freedom and nonviolence except for the Court's lack of morals that promoted cultural ideas of race over constitutional protections.
Ironically, many descendants of the Freedmen promoted ideas of an African American race and culture. Confused about the true principles of freedom, they advanced the culture of race based on skin color similar to the loathsome cultural practices of 19th and early 20th century. They were not alone. Other Americans declared separate Asian, white-European, and Latino ethnicities. Consciously aware of it or not, all of them support previous ideas of innate race difference that Americans of my generation discredited in the twentieth century civil rights movement for freedom.