Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How Thirsty Are You?

Leonard Pitts, Jr, on getting to the Promised Land of equality.

”I may not get there with you.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., April 3, 1968

A few words about the Mountaintop and the Promised Land.

On the last night of his life, Martin Luther King Jr. famously told an audience in Memphis that he had stood on the one and seen the other. He did not define the Promised Land, but he did not need to. That audience of striking sanitation workers and their supporters, those long-suffering women and men who erupted in cries and shouts, already knew.

The Promised Land was where you did not have to march for your dignity. It was where you did not have to sing for your freedom. It was where there was no need for speeches to verify your humanity. The Promised Land was that sacred place where all of God’s children would stand as equals on level, fertile ground.

Friday marks 40 years since King was killed. And the search for that promised land has shrunken until it fits inside an old riddle, the one that asks whether the glass is half empty or half full.


Whites […] see that promised land — racial equality — as an ideal, something it would be nice to achieve someday. Blacks see it as a necessity, something you work to make manifest here and now. The urgency embodied in the one view, and the luxuriant indolence in the other, speak volumes about the cognitive distance between blacks and whites.

And explain why, rather than being inspired by the possibilities glimpsed from a mountain peak, we trudge through a valley arguing how much water is in the glass. Is it half empty? Half full?

I guess that would depend on how thirsty you are.