Dear Dr. King,
We first met in May of 1958 at Boston University School of Theology. You were 29, I was 24. You would have been 88 on January 15, 2017 if you had not been assassinated in 1968. I am 83. One of our Boston University colleagues, United Methodist Bishop Woodie White has written annual letters to you that have been insightful, candid and prophetic. I make no attempt to imitate my long time friend and colleague Woodie as I write this, but, I am inwardly compelled to share the following:
1. The last 8 years, we have been blessed to have as our President, Barrack Hussein Obama. But developments that have been taking place in the process of electing a successor to President Obama, have motivated my writing this letter to you that I hope and pray will be shared with others
2. The nation and world now know that the election of President Obama did not usher in a post racial/racist era. We missed an opportunity as proponents or opponents of Barack Obama to act in ways that demonstrated that we acknowledged “America’s Original Sin; Racism”. His opposition could have been a “Loyal Opposition” that disagreed with his policies, but not disagree with the legacy of the anti-black racism that still hovers over the nation; south, north, central and west. The nation has demonstrated that it could accept with enthusiasm two black quarterbacks as they led their respective teams in the quest for a national championship. But, there were some Americans who in attitudes and actions, were reluctant to fully accept a black President of the United States, nor his spouse Michelle and their daughters. Football quarterbacks entertain and excite football fans, but a President represents and leads a nation. This apparently for some Americans, was beyond their capacity to accept.
3. Dr. King, our unresolved racial reality is that there has been and is, an unwillingness to express in word and deed that the nation was wrong in ever tolerating slavery and racial segregation. They both violated the principles of equality, fairness and justice that are writ large in Scripture and the Constitution. We waste time in efforts to label persons racist. I am fascinated at how persons whether right or left of center, protect others and themselves from the racist label, but are less enthusiastic in condemning systemic racism re; voting rights, affirmative action, education, housing, economic opportunity, the gap between blacks in healthcare, home ownership, and family, economic well being.
We are not where we ought be on matters of racial justice, because we have discovered we can enact laws that allow us “to change without changing” the deep seated attitudes that once justified slavery and segregation.
Yet, Dr. King, I “Dare to Dream” that Republicans, Democrats, Independents and all of us can and will join hands and hearts to make America what it is not yet, but can become.
On Friday, January 13th, Grace and I and our son Dale visited the Bear Tavern Elementary School here in New Jersey to talk about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. The faces of those children, their teachers and Principal are in my minds eye as I write this. It is because of them, and those like them that I write this letter.
They deserve a better nation than the one that we are now.
May we, this MLK weekend despite the dark clouds above us, begin to become Martin Luther King, the nation you dreamed of and believed in as you lived and died for and in the cause of Freedom and Justice.
–Gilbert H. Caldwell
- “The Work of Christmas” - December 21, 2017
- Be The Way Forward: A Letter from Rev. Gil Caldwell - December 12, 2017
- The Contradiction at the Heart of The United Methodist Church - August 29, 2017