Pursuing the Dream

As another Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaches, MSPS reflects on the dream at Notre Dame.

Prior to a memorial service at Faith Apostolic last week, a buddy and I tuned in briefly to an old episode of “A Different World,” the early ‘90s Cosby Show spinoff about life for undergrads at an HBCU.

This particular episode revolved around the departure of one character to the Persian Gulf during the first U.S. incursion into Iraq. The characters—all of whom were black—were debating the appropriateness of a young, talented black man choosing to join a war for a cause that some didn’t see clearly—or at all.

In one exchange, a character said something to the effect of, “Why are you going over there to fight for something we can’t see when there are plenty of problems right here that we can see…?”

As we left the house, my buddy looked at me and said, “They don’t make shows like that anymore.”

Already forming the answer in my head, I asked, “Why not?”

Cynically, he answered, “Because there’s no need. We’ve realized the dream.”

“The dream” is still MLK’s dream, right? From the speech. The dream is MLK’s dream about kids growing up equal and everyone getting along and holding hands.

But the dream sometimes refers to something bigger, too. An end-goal: something quantifiable like one cup of sugar and two tablespoons of cinnamon and three whiskers of a cat. If we can just put together the correct percentage or ratio of white-to-black-to-Asian-to-Latino-to-Native together in a bowl and mix it around enough times, we will have the right recipe, the right product, the right dream.

They don’t make shows like “A Different World” anymore—a show acclaimed for purposefully tackling issues of race and class in America from the African American perspective. And we commented, as we drove to the church, that they don’t make shows like that anymore; they don’t make them because of a general liberal consensus that the dream and the product of equality already have been realized.

Is that true? Has the dream been realized?

Once we arrived at the memorial service, a colleague spoke to the congregation about the Kingdom of God. There in the same room were black, white, Asian, Latino, rich, poor, old, young: the Kingdom of God, he exclaimed. And there was cheering at the idea that for those couple of hours, the Kingdom of God—the DREAM—had been realized there in that space.

And then we left the church. And we filed to our cars. And we went home. And we went back to school and to work the next day… And something in the inspiring, emotional, celebratory atmosphere of the church was gone and the realization since has struck me: if the Kingdom of God and the Dream had been realized within the space and time and emotion of the church that night, then here on the outside the dream must not be so realized.

Of course there is progress, but the clear logic of last week’s events reminded me once again that, in regard to the Dream—MLK’s dream about the kids and the hand-holding—There is still some work to do.

Because they don’t make shows like “A Different World” anymore. And because if the Kingdom of God and Dream exist inside the space of the church, what does that say about outside?