A misunderstood message from Martin Luther King Jr.


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, April 3rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Tomorrow marks 50 years since an assassin’s bullet ended the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

King called upon each of us to consider the character of others above the color of others. But that’s not to say color is unimportant.

Commentator Mary Coleman now with thoughts on appreciating God’s creativity.

MARY COLEMAN, COMMENTATOR: Martin Luther King, Jr. will always be highly-regarded for his non-violent approach in fighting racial injustice, but one of his core messages is often misunderstood.

KING: 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.

That statement from King’s 1963 speech at the March on Washington has evolved into a modern message of colorblindness when it was really about justice.

As a person of color, I’d like to give you two examples from my own life that illustrate the downside of being colorblind.

Years ago, a white friend of mine expressed to me her love for Colonial Williamsburg, saying that she loved to imagine living in colonial times. I told her I didn’t love imagining that because I would have been a slave. My friend had never considered that my lens on early American life might be so different.

Last summer, another white friend was distressed to hear how worried I was before white supremacists came to Charlottesville. Half of my family lives and works there, so the events were quite troubling for us. My friend was shocked to learn that two of my daughters had been called the n-word while going about their business in broad daylight. She admitted that it was easy for her to ignore the racial tension because it had no impact on her loved ones.

These examples highlight why it’s important to see color. King did not want his children judged because of their color—and neither do I. I don’t want anyone to think less of my children because of their color. But that does not mean I want people to ignore their race—or the role it plays in their American experience.

I believe we shortchange God when we say we don’t see color. He is the One who made us different. God created a universe full of color.

Blue skies and white sea foam.

Green leaves and flowers of every hue.

Purple eggplant and red tomatoes don our dinner table, but what about the different faces seated at the table of our lives?

Behind each colorful face in America is a history, a family, a country. Different colors of people provide an array of triumphs and struggles to be celebrated or lamented.

God did this. He created the sun and the melanin that make us many shades. He made the continents from which we originate, each with its own topography, climate, and customs. Each with its own history of slavery, oppression, prosperity, and liberty.

God created all this—but not the hate. He entrusted the earth to sinners, and it’s our job to counter this hate with love, to bring a little heaven down to earth.

Revelation 7:9 describes a heavenly throng of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. The power in this beautiful imagery is the very diversity many of us prefer not to see. God’s ideal should encourage us to foster racial understanding and celebrate diverse communities.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Mary Coleman


Find the full text of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech here.


(AP Photo/File) In this March 17, 1963, file photo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, sit with three of their four children in their Atlanta, Ga., home.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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