Today is MLK day, I spent it catching up on my African American history, overdosing on the Inauguration broadcasts, the rhetoric on the significance of the inauguration of the first Black President and something about what Michelle Obama will wear to inaugural balls. In all of these, I kept searching for why is this really significant to blacks in America, why do blacks talk about this inauguration as the realization of the dream? Why does the rest of the world care about an historic moment in America? The latter question is somewhat easier to answer (I said somewhat), "I have a dream" is a well recognized phrase across the world as is its author and I want to believe that for years the world watched to see if the dream will ever be realized in America and by electing the first black president the dream is fulfilled and the American dream lives on.
The former question was a little harder to crack. Understanding segregation and recognizing racism is tough if you haven't lived through. Yes I have seen the pictures and I've spoken to enough black people who have told me the stories of the time, eventually my answer came from the following text in Dr. King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in response to a statement issued by the Alabama Clergymen.
"When you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; ..... when your first name becomes "nigger", your middle name becomes "boy" .......... when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait."
It's true the signs have come down, the N-word became politically incorrect (unless of course you are black then it’s ok) and Lyndon Johnson signed The Voting Rights Acts but that degenerating sense of “nobodiness” lingered on for the most part until November 4th, 2008.
On January 20th, 2009 blacks in America will undoubtedly be celebrating the historic event of the inauguration of the first black president with a reassured sense of being somebody.
Happy MLK Day!!!