In 2007, I visited Memphis, Tennessee, for the first time. I loved the city, and I loved my visit. People went out of their way to be friendly, the food was great, and you can sense a city whose citizens are working to make it prosperous. An African-American colleague drove me around one afternoon. She took me into a bar outside of town where she had to make a sales call, a bar with a large Confederate flag and an all-white clientele who seemed surprised to see a black woman come inside. Later that afternoon, she drove me past the museum that has been erected inside and around the motel where Dr. King was shot and killed in 1968.
It is good to be reminded that the effort to create a friendly, tolerant society happens every day, in the way we treat strangers and in the attitudes we convey to our children. My friend shared her day with me, and she talked openly about the times and places where she still feels uneasy being an African-American woman walking by herself. Happily, she said, there are fewer and fewer places where she thinks about it.
Dr. King spoke out about the injustice he saw in parts of America in the 1960s, but he also spoke with conviction and eloquence about his hope for a better future. Hope and determination together can change the world. They have changed the world. In his famous speech, Dr. King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
I wish the same today, that my child and all other children will be judged by the content of their character. I expect to be judged by my character as well.