Fifty years ago today, on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech which called on America to judge others not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. We at the Barefoot Alliance appreciate these words, and hope to extend the spirit behind them to the barefoot lifestyle.
For decades now -- almost as long as it's been since Dr. King shared his dream -- countless businesses have displayed signs prohibiting people from entering without footwear. They have displayed signs saying, "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service." Those signs were originally meant to keep out those "undesirable" hippies and other citizens who broke norms and went against the flow.
That trend to keep out "undesirable" elements continues today, but it's also wrapped in ignorance and assumptions. Even though there are no health codes, laws, or other regulations saying people cannot go barefoot into businesses and restaurants, the idea remains that Americans must wear shoes when they go out in public.
But it's not just that. Our public schoolchildren must also wear shoes in case some mysterious and catastrophic tragedy happens at any moment -- you know, to protect their feet. What isn't required, however, is for every student to wear a hard hat and protective gloves to climb out of that same potential, phantom rubble.
Employees in various job positions at various employers are also required to wear shoes for no practical reason other than "professionalism." That means a female legal assistant's feet may hurt all day walking back and forth throughout their agency's nicely-carpeted offices wearing heels required by company policy. A cashier at the local grocery store may have to wear hot, sweat-inducing shoes just to stand in one place to ring up Doritos, ground beef, produce, and more throughout his shift.
"As a barefooter ... I have been called derogatory names; I have been denied a table at a restaurant; I have been forced off an airplane; I have been escorted by security to the nearest exit. Most ironically, I have been denied a seat on a bus by a black female driver."
Friends, there are SO many reasons that people should go barefoot -- and be allowed to go barefoot -- in their daily lives. We say it over and over on our Website and social media: Barefoot is human. We are supposed to go barefoot! Our feet are made to function well without shoes and shoes cause most of the foot problems that humans deal with.
So we have a dream. In early 2011, our vice president and author of The Barefoot Book Daniel Howell, PhD, shared this dream on his blog and we post it again to share our vision and pay tribute to Dr. King:
"I have dream that Americans will one day be free to live barefoot. My dream may seem trivial, but it is not. It is not trivial because at its core it is a struggle against an oppressive attitude toward differences. It is a dream that we will stop shunning those who think outside the box. We say we celebrate such thinking, but we lie. In truth we actively oppress innovative thinking and it’s only through much toil and sweat on the part of such thinkers that real change ever happens among the masses.
I am white. I am educated. Indeed, I am privileged to be among the small portion (less than 1%) of the population with an esteemed doctorate degree – in biochemistry no less, one of those hard sciences that has obtained almost idolistic authority in Western thought. As ‘Dr. Howell, university professor’ I am a respected member of my community. As a barefooter, I have felt the sting of blatant and hateful discrimination: I have been called derogatory names; I have been denied a table at a restaurant; I have been forced off an airplane; I have been escorted by security to the nearest exit. Most ironically, I have been denied a seat on a bus by a black female driver. But I have a dream that one day doing something as healthy – and legal – as going barefoot will be acceptable to my fellow Americans.
I have a dream that little white children and little black children can play together barefoot in the gymnasium. I have a dream that one day employees will be recognized for the quality of their work rather than the price of their wingtips or pumps. I dream of a day when the ‘barefooter’ is applauded for making the more natural and healthier choice to shun her shoes; a choice made not only for the health of her feet but maybe because she also refuses to subvert herself to the role of temptress in high heels in order to be a corporate player.
Truly, I dream of a day when shoes (or the lack thereof) are a non-issue.
They say you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes, but I long for a day when we will be judged by our hard work, our commitment to excellence, our creativity and ingenuity… by the content of our character and not by the shoes on our feet.
Am I insulting Dr. King? Am I trivializing his dream or making a mountain out of a molehill? I don’t think so because ultimately my dream is not about feet, it’s about the end of discrimination in all its forms. It’s about acceptance."
We feel that this is a worthy and legitimate dream to have. Do you share that dream?