Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Burden of Freedom

Today the United States of America and many around the world will reflect on the famous “I Have a Dream” speech given by Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. 50 years ago.

This speech came at time when the suppression of minorities was an institutionalized norm in the US that had the support of law.  Until his death in 1968 MLK Jr. was the most formidable civil rights activist in America; he fought (spoke/marched) for the right of minorities to enjoy freedoms enjoyed by their more dominant white counterparts.  In the prophetic language he hinted at, what turned out to be a fact that.

Although a wonderful token of that struggle exists in the person of Barak Obama, president of the United States of America, his position of privilege is not somehow experienced by a significant percentage blacks in the US today.  Why?

Is Barak Obama president because his mother is white?  Let’s say yes.  That would mean that the only qualification you require is that your mother be white and you can become president of the USA.  So much for satisfying such criteria as being at least 35 years old and a permanent resident for at least 14 consecutive years.  Incidentally, that’s all that is required to become president – of course you’ll have to convince the electorate that you are worthy of their vote, and that’s where it gets a little complicated.  President Obama, a black man did that; not once, but twice.
It is to be noted that not everyone likes Obama.  Some hate the fact that he is black, and if they had their way (possibly for that reason alone) he wouldn’t be president.  But… he is Barak Obama, President of the United States of America.

President Obama could have chosen not to go to school.  He could have chosen not to pay attention in his English Language classes.  Obama could have sought to hide behind the fact that his father is a black man from Africa.  He could have gone the route of becoming a drug addict, or an individual who lived outside of the law and thus qualifying for permanent residence in a state penitentiary. 
But he did none of that (as far as common knowledge goes).  Instead, he used the freedom he enjoys as a black man in America to go to school, focus in his classes, establish a career and is now president in his second term.  

If the presidency of Obama does nothing else, it seems to take away any excuse that minority citizens would make about a suppressive system that does not afford them the opportunity to excel.  Incidentally, the circumstances of Oprah Winfrey and Dr Benjamin Carson, and myriads of other people of colour help to remove those excuses as well.

Does racism still exist in America today?  Yes.  So then MLK Jr.’s dream hasn’t yet come true.  No, it has - as far as formalized suppression is concerned.  But as far as individuals taking full advantage and kicking down doors is concerned - not quite there yet.  The problem is that there seems an unpreparedness to deal with being responsible for ones own destiny.  You see, freedom gives you choices.  Choices make you responsible for your own destiny.  You become whomever you choose to become.

Incidentally, this freedom for which MLK Jr. struggled is grounded in the freedom of choice that God invested our original parents with.  They had to choose whether to obey or disobey God; whether they'd live or die.  And although we would have inherited the fate of their choice the sacrifice of Jesus Christ puts back into our own hands the responsibility to determine our individual destinies.  And once we do that we have no one else to blame.  Freedom is a good thing, and with it comes the burden of great responsibilities.  And whether we like it or not, our destinies... yeah God will hold us to account for how we use this God-given resource called FREEDOM.