Much Overcome, Much To Do
“I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.
“So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it.”
Philippians 3:12-16, The Message
Surfing the web the other night I came upon an interesting graphic. It opened with the famous Norman Rockwell painting of a Ruby Bridges-type girl being escorted past a tomato-splattered wall to school by four U.S. marshals. All the white parents pulled their children out of the New Orleans school when young Ruby integrated it in 1960, making her the only student for a year. I scrolled down to another image. This one showed Sasha Obama being escorted by her mom and at least four U.S. secret service agents to her first day of school in Washington, D.C., as the daughter of the president-elect of the United States of America. The graphic was entitled “How Far We’ve Come.”
Wow. What a sight to consider as we observe a national holiday named for a champion of the Gospel call to racial and social justice, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many of us who grew up in the 1960s, ‘70s or earlier are still stunned that an African American is president-elect of the United States of America. I know I am. For me, the whole process was one of those “Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief” situations that you work for, pray for and try to believe for, but you just can’t muster the faith to be confident it will happen.
But it did, and my soul magnifies the Lord! I give thanks to God for Dr. King and the many others who through the centuries, decades, years and months agitated and strategized, suffered and organized, marched and sacrificed, advocated and struggled, sat- in and stood up for justice in causes often derided as “utopian dreams” by ostensibly well-meaning people. This one’s for all of you! Get your party on! Do your holy dance! Lift your voices and sing till earth and heaven ring!
Then, with your faith renewed, get back to work. As far as we’ve come, as much as we’ve overcome, we still have many rivers to cross. The Children’s Defense Fund reports:
- Currently, 8.9 million children are uninsured -- 1-in-5 Latino children and 1-in-8 black children compared to 1-in-13 white children.
- One-in-6 children in the United States is poor. Black and Latino children are about three times as likely to be poor as white children.
- More than 80 percent of black and Latino fourth graders in public school cannot read at grade level, compared with 58 percent of their white peers. Likewise, 85 percent of black fourth graders in public school cannot do math at grade level, compared to 78 percent of Latino children and about 50 percent of white children.
- White, black and Latino children are about equally likely to use illicit drugs, but black juveniles are twice as likely as their white peers to be arrested for drug offenses and more than five times as like to be incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses as white teens.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement he led faced a juncture similar to ours today. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were signed, Dr. King counseled the movement to stay on point, even amid hard-won victories, in what turned out to be his final presidential address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference entitled “Where Do We Go from Here”:
“Let us go out with a `divine dissatisfaction.’ … Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort and the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice…. Let us be dissatisfied until those that live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security….Let us be dissatisfied until men and women, however, black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character and not on the basis of the color of their skin. Let us be dissatisfied.”
Yvette Moore is a communications specialist with the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.