Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1441: Praying that the Promised Land is still ahead

  “I just want to do God’s will. He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” These are the prophetic words from the last speech Dr. Martin Luther King uttered in Memphis on April 3, 1968. He was shot down the very next day.

  There is no doubt in my mind Dr. King knew that death was very imminent; that he knew he was going to die in the next few days. It was in his words. It was in his spirit. We can feel it when we listen to that last speech. We can see it in his face and body language.

  Because Dr. King was so prophetic concerning his death, we must ask ourselves on his 86th birthday whether he was equally as prophetic about the Promised Land – that there is a Promised Land;  that we as a people will get to the Promised Land; that the Promised Land will be something very good. (In the Bible, the Promised Land flourished with the proverbial milk and honey).

  Have we reached the Promised Land or is it still up ahead? Some said we reached the Promised Land when more African Americans voted, more African Americans were elected, more African American children were in college and received better jobs. More did come in all these areas, but then it was diminished by a multitude of legal schemes and social and economic forces. Is this the Promised Land Dr. King saw from the mountain top?

  Some said that we had reached the Promised Land when Senator Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States of America in 2008. However, his election triggered the most powerful racial backlash since Reconstruction. Everything associated with President Obama was attacked with a vengeance unseen in previous presidential politics. The attacks started the very same day we gathered a million strong for his inauguration. A group of reactionary leaders were meeting that very same hour plotting a scorched earth policy of opposition. Is this the Promised Land that Dr. King saw from the mountain top?

  President Obama was attacked unmercifully and unrelenting. He was attacked on his birth, citizenship, his intelligence, his competency, his vision, his honesty, his ability and so forth. He was attacked so terribly that few in the 2012 and 2014 elections were willing to even identify his successful policies. Even local candidates were running against him as if he were a demon on the election ballot. No other president has been so demonized. Is this the Promised Land that Dr. King saw from the mountain top?

  All of these attacks came in spite of President Obama and his administration’s achieving the following: preventing us from going over the Recession Cliff to a second Great Depression; protecting the sick with health insurance; helping immigrants by executive action on two occasions; creating millions of jobs; reforming the financial system so we would not again rush toward or off the economic cliff; helping generate the largest economic recovery in recent U.S. history; helping improve the environment so we can breathe fresh air and drink pure water; helping produce the greatest domestic surge in energy so gas once again hovers at $2 per gallon; and so much, much more. Is this the Promised Land Dr. King saw from the mountain top?

  African Americans voted at a higher percentage than Whites in the 2012 presidential election. However, the right to vote is under heavy attack through the rollback of certain provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act bolstered by new kinds of state-sponsored literacy tests and poll taxes in the forms of Voter Photo ID. Millions are denied free healthcare because it is more important to be viewed as anti-Obama than it is to help Americans to live longer and better. Across the Deep South this was the unanimous position of states. Is this the Promised Land that Dr. King saw from the mountain top?

  After the Civil War, Reconstruction was crushed by isolating Blacks from Whites in the political arena. They have again done that across the South. Nearly all elected officials are White and elected by Whites. The exceptions are Blacks in majority Black districts, counties and municipalities. Is this the Promised Land that Dr. King saw from the mountain top?

  I believe we have not come close to the Promised Land. I believe that Dr. King described the Promised Land years before his mountain top speech two days before his death in 1968. I believe he described the Promised Land in his 1963 "I have a dream" speech at the Great March on Washington. He said: I have a dream that one day this Nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.

  Today it is not self-evident that all men are created equal. We are not sitting at the table of Brotherhood. We are not in the Promised Land. I pray that the Promised Land is still ahead.

EPILOGUE – Sometimes prophecies quickly come to reality. Sometimes they take a lifetime. Sometimes they take generations. However, if we know a good prophecy is truly coming, we can bear the time and keep doing the work.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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