At the Unity breakfast last week I was struck by the words of Reverend Vincent Curtis of Moody when he talked about closing the gap when it comes to fulfilling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream that all races join together at the table of brotherhood.

In his August 1963 speech, Dr. King said that he hopes that “sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” He added a few sentences later that he hoped that here in this state that “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

I have witnessed that firsthand with my own five-year-old son. One of his best friends is not of our same skin color. I don’t believe that my son really become aware of it until they were somewhere around four-and-a-half. After all, four year old boys don’t look in the mirror that much or pay attention to how they look.

It was about that time that my son came to me and asked about some people at his school being “different.” I knew what he meant, but couldn’t help asking, “How are they different?”

It turns out that someone at his daycare had pointed out the fact that kids weren’t all of the same skin tone.

“Kids don’t know there’s a difference until someone points it out,” my Bolivian-born wife said to me once. She’s right.

Many kids nowadays are colorblind when it comes to race. That’s a true testament to the struggle for Civil Rights that took place in the 1950s and 1960s.

I grew up witnessing the death of the Old South without knowing that it was dying right before my eyes. It’s something that if I didn’t witness firsthand, that it might be hard to notice. But I’m a history buff and growing up with an Alabama History teacher in the house allowed me to realize just how different things were only a generation ago here in our great state.

Getting back to Reverend Curtis’ speech. He mentioned that he went to pick up his own son after basketball practice one day. He said his son wanted his dad to take of picture of him and his friend, who wasn’t of the same race as he and his son. “They put their arms around each other as if they were brothers and the very best of friends,” Rev. Curtis said, with what I thought I saw were tears welling up in the side of his eye.

My son and his buddy are alike in many, many ways. They were both born on the same day, within hours of each other. One was born in Chicago, the other in Athens, Alabama. They are both extraordinarily tall for their age. They’re both full of energy and like many of the same things.

But 50 years ago, or even 40, I doubt they could have ever become such good friends. Especially right here in the Heart of Dixie where the struggle for equal rights became ingrained in our nations DNA.

We have come a long way, though. But there are still strides to be made. Rev. Curtis said he was in one of the big-boxed hardware stores a few months back looking for an item and came across a white woman who instinctively went to grab her purse when the man of the church approached her.

“Never mind that little child she had in that cart,” the reverend pointed out with a smile. When the woman realized what she did, she immediately apologized. “We talked so long after that, I nearly missed my next appointment,” said Rev. Curtis.

So, I think that in the broad sense, we are fulfilling Dr. King’s Dream. We’ve come a long way, but we still have to close the gap. In education, culture and sometimes, with each other in public. Just go to a local basketball game and you’ll see it. While the kids of different ethnic backgrounds are on the court next to each other or cracking jokes before and after the games, often the parents aren’t.

It might take a bit longer for that to go away. But I have faith that it will and I know many others do, too.

To quote Dr. King, “With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together... to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

On a different note:

In the coming days our second son will be born at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham. I was born at that hospital, as were two of my siblings. I cannot express to you the happiness I feel knowing that a newer, more modern St. Vincent’s facility is going to open up in this county next year. I congratulate all of the hard work and thousands of hours put in by local officials to make the new hospital a reality.

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