Monday, August 28, 2006

The Check Is Paid But Not Cashed

Forty-three years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his historic "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington D.C. It was a time in this country that I am glad I did not experience. It scares me to think about actually having to live in the South during this time of tyranny. But that time has passed. The present-day South is in no way as bad as it was when Dr. King made his speech. But one thing he did say seems to still be a problem today.
In his speech Dr. King says, "In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds." But just one year later, that check was delivered and the process of changing the South forever began. Today that check still exist. It has not been fully cashed. It sits in the form of wasted potential in the black community. What do I mean? Let's see.
Because of the Civil Rights Movement in this country, minorities have the right to vote, go anywhere they want, go to any school they want, eat anywhere they want, and do anything they want. And I am sure that the large majority of minority people do exercise many of these rights. However, with all the progress that has been made, I feel that many minority students waste their potential because of a false sense that people do not want them to achieve. In the area of education, the lowest achievement is found among black, male students. And that is a nationwide statistic. Why?
The simple fact of the matter is that they don't feel they have to achieve. They don't seem to appreciate the sacrifices made to get them in the position they are in. A position that allows them, with work, to attend any college and hold any job. Who would want to pass that up? Instead many black males waste away in school and pick up minimal jobs for minimal pay. They in turn have children. And in the raising of those children, I feel, there is a great deal of falsehood being planted. Children are told they will never achieve because people don't want them to achieve. That sort of talk breeds apathy and teachers deal with this on a daily basis. Apathy in a student is almost an impossible obstacle to overcome. It is sad to see them fail because of their own ignorance of their situation.
If only they understood the "check" that has been handed to them by people like Dr. King. If they could be made to understand that they must achieve. That it is their right as a citizen and their destiny as a black American, maybe then they would try. If they would only appreciate the legacy given to America on this day in 1963, then things might be different. If ignorance of this kind continues to grow, I fear that the South will return to the way it was. I fear that the "check" that was worked so hard for will be cancelled once again.

No comments: