Delivered on the steps of the PCLU on January 27, 2002.
Eleven score and some years ago, 56 great Americans, whose descendants we are today, signed the Declaration of Independence. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to so many European-American colonists who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of religious intolerance and economic oppression.
But, over two hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the American white man once again is not free. Two hundred years later, the American white man is sadly crippled by the manacles of affirmative action and reverse discrimination. Two hundred years later, the white man lives on a lonely island of taxation in the midst of a vast ocean of welfare entitlement. Two hundred years later, the white man is languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
In a sense, we beseech our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every European-American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of white skin are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the European-American people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we seek to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of backing down or to take the tranquilizing drug of appeasement. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of reverse discrimination to the sunlit path of equal racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of equal opportunity.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the white man. This freezing winter of the white man's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating spring of freedom and equality. Two Thousand Two is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the European-American simply needs to blow off steam and will be content with a subordinate role will have a rude awakening. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the white man is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting the physical force of our government with intellectual force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed so much of the patriot community must not lead us to distrust of all government employees and officials, for many of them, as evidenced by their presence everywhere today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of equal rights for European-Americans, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of carrying our load of taxation, cannot gain equal opportunity for employment and equal treatment in the halls of justice. We cannot be satisfied as long as the white man's basic mobility is from a smaller tax burden to a larger one while his children must be placed in private schools for their safety. We can never be satisfied as long as a white man in California cannot hold public office and a white man in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of my brethren are now engaged in great trials and tribulations. Some of you are even now incarcerated in narrow cells. Some of you live in areas where your quest for freedom leaves you battered by the storms of persecution for your beliefs and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Listen now in Los Angeles, listen in Boston, listen in Chicago, listen in Seattle, go back to the dead-end jobs of our cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I've got 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've got a dream that one day in the factories of Minnesota the sons of former Union members and the sons of former welfare queens will be fairly and equally evaluated for employment.
I've got a dream that one day even the state of New York, a welfare state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and economic oppression for the European-American, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I've got a dream that my three 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've got a dream today.
I've got a dream that one day the state of California, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of pandering and appeasement, will be transformed into a situation where little white boys and white girls will be able to enjoy the same opportunity to excel academically in a public school as now provided little boys and little girls of color.
I've got a dream today.
I've got a dream that one day little white boys and white girls will be able to attend public schools without fear of physical harm or addiction to illegal drugs.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I call to my brethren. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of equal justice and equal opportunity for the European-American. 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.
This will be the day when the children of our forefathers will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is once again to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from the government hiring halls with quotas that exclude white workers!
Let freedom ring from the courts that convict only white men of hate crimes!
Let freedom ring from every neighborhood where a European-American parent fears for the safety of his child.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
When we let 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 the children of European-Americans, like those of black men, latinos and illegal immigrants, will be able to sing in the words of the old spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002
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