It Is Time to Listen

Good afternoon from Westminster, MD!

As I sit to write this, today marks the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Remembering this moment has always been important, but it is of particular importance in 2020 as United States, and maybe the world, has reached what appears to be a breaking point with Racial Injustice. As we ponder the question, “where do we go from here?”, it is important to reflect on the question, “why are we still here?”

From the first time I really listened to King’s famous speech, I have always found it powerful and inspiring. His dream of a country in which everyone, regardless of race, has the same opportunity to reach their God-given potential is beautiful and hopeful. The United States is a place of great opportunity, but some people have been arbitrarily disadvantaged from taking advantage of “The American Dream” simply because of the color of their skin. King did not lose hope that one day this could change and neither will I. This dream can and will one day be realized.

There are many reasons why King’s “I Have A Dream” speech made and continues to make such an impact. As a white man, I want to focus on one of them- people actually listened. I was not alive when the speech was made, but it would be hard to deny the far reaching impact of King’s words. In a moment, King simultaneously shined a light on the realities of injustice and the hope for a new way forward. While change was not immediate, it is clear that King contributed greatly to the steps that have been taken to correct racism and racial injustice.

However, it is also clear that the work is not complete. Why are we still here? Again, there are many reasons, but it stems in a large part from an unwillingness to listen. Earlier in 1963, King wrote an open letter to pastors and others who were telling him to stop pushing so hard to end segregation and racial injustice. The letter, now known as “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was written by King while jailed in Birmingham for his fight for a better way forward. King made many profound statements in the letter, but his plea for people to actually listen and see the realities of racial injustice is what sticks with me most. This plea is still relevant today, especially for people who call themselves Christ Followers. We are still hear because, like the people of King’s day, we are unwilling to truly listen to the pain of the hurting.

As Christ Followers, we can no longer remain complacent and unwilling to listen to the cry of our brothers and sisters of color. We are called to love our neighbor, which starts with a willingness to understand their story. This is the beginning of change. This is how Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream becomes a reality. What a beautiful reality it would be.

On this day in 1963, people chose to listen. Will you choose to do the same today?

James Belt

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