I’m hardly the first person to post about the Fiftieth Anniversary of the March on Washington or Dr. King’s famous speech today. It’s late in the evening on August 28, 2013 as I sit and draft this post and I am sure that thousands of people have written something more elegant than I will. But when we started our staff meeting today with a reading from a section of Dr. King’s speech that doesn’t get read or played as often, I was struck by an image and reminded of a scripture and couldn’t not write this piece.
In a sense we have 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 unalienable 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 we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
There have been some checks cashed in the economy of racial justice and freedom. Yet too often America continues to write bad checks to people of color. Despite exceptional examples, major disparities continue between whites and people of color. Education, incarceration, health outcomes, income and wealth all point to the fact that America continues to default on our promises to people of color.
There is a parable that has always bothered me, mostly I am uncomfortable with the judge in Jesus’ story in Luke chapter 18.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think,5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.
God is on the side of justice, and Jesus claims that God will bring about justice for those who cry out to him day and night.. Yet fifty years after Dr. King’s speech we still find gross injustice in our country.
So what do we do?
We cry out, day and night. We need to cry out to God. We must seek God’s power in eliminating the disparities coming from race and poverty. God will fight for us. We must fight with God.
But we need to cry out to our leaders in government, in business, in schools, in non-profits. Day and night we must let people know that we are done with bad checks and insufficient funds. We are done with higher rates of incarceration, we are done with academic failure, we are done with higher rates of diabetes and heart disease. This is over.
Then we cry out again to our God and our leaders together. Imagine, the power of one persistent widow, bugging one unjust judge. Imagine if we the persistent school teacher, the persistent blogger, the persistent IT professional, the persistent pastor, the persistent nurse, the persistent mom, the persistent custodian, the persistent factory worker, the persistent farmer, the persistent student, the persistent professor all joined together and day and night cried out to God and our leaders on behalf of the marginalized, the oppressed and the left behind.
I haven’t been crying out as I ought to. So my prayer is too that we would learn to cry out and that we would gain strength from crying out together.
What could happen?