I remember the first time I heard the Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have A Dream" speech. Well, sort of. I was seven. My father had it on vinyl, and because my father is a serious man, he prefaced the experience with, “Now this is a very important piece of history, and you need to listen carefully.” Of course, I didn’t listen carefully at all because I got KnockOut for Christmas—not that one, this one—and I’m pretty sure I was hungry.
I still feel rather horrible about the fact that my dad was dutifully trying to educate me about the black experience in America, and all I did was sit there pretty miffed about the whole situation. “I bet my white friends don’t have to do this,” I thought bitterly.
Anyway, most kids are assholes (I certainly was!), but MLK remains one of the single most important figures not only in black history, but American history, and I’m so thankful that my little asshole ears were exposed to that magnificent speech at such an early age. That being said, I only paid attention to about 10% of the entire thing because I wanted a toaster strudel very badly.
So, to celebrate the honorable doctor on his birthday, here are several don’t-ever-forget-these-words moments from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, followed by scientifically accurate examples of what I was thinking when I heard them for the first time.
"America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'"
Does that mean it's America's fault that black people are poor and homeless?
"Now is the time to lift the nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood."
Super Mario gets stuck in quicksand all of the time. Why does that angry sun keep trying to burn his face off? Mario is one of God's children, too.
"It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment."
"1963 is not an end, but a beginning."
Dad, you old.
"Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred."
Does that taste like the grape-flavored juice they serve at church on Communion Sunday? No one should drink that stuff. Tastes like farts.
"We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence."
It’s not my fault. She hit me first! I hate having siblings.
"Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."
I thought we were learning about MLK, not Don Cornelius.
"For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom."
Where are you now, white brothers and sisters? Pretty sure you’re playing KnockOut or enjoying your new Skip-It. So much for freedom.
"We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: 'For Whites Only.'''
Do our neighbors know we are black? We are one of two black families on our street. I’m pretty sure listening to Alan Jackson all day is equivalent to a “Whites Only” sign.
"We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote."
Voting seems hard anyway. Sounds like homework. So glad I don’t have to do it!
"Go back to Mississippi. Go back to Alabama. Go back to South Carolina. Go Back to Georgia. Go back to Louisiana. Go back to the slums and the ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that someday this situation can and will be changed."
I have no idea how to find most of those places on a map. I barely know where I am right now. Thank god California is very large and next to an ocean.
"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."
Yes, I’m listening! I’m also dreaming about toaster strudels and hot pockets. Thanks for asking.
"With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."
Dad looks so funny without his moustache.
“When we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"
This thing is over? Awesome. I mean, Amen. I mean, happy birthday, MLK!