Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"I Have A Dream" Speech 50 Years On

It has been 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and shared his vision of America's promise. The speech attempted to convince a nation that its treatment of a large segment of its population dishonored the country's stated creed.

But in the five subsequent decades, one line has taken prominence over any other enunciated on that day. King explained, "I have a dream that my four 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." That line has constantly been taken out of context to claim that King favored a colorblind society.

And perhaps he did.

But he only advocated for a colorblind nation after the grievances, accumulated over hundreds of years, of black folks have been addressed. As a result of historical prejudice, black Americans face socio-economic inequalities, enjoy fewer chances for advancement, and their lives are deemed less valuable. Black men are treated with mistrust and fear, while black women suffer from the duel hardship of racism and feminism.

Dr. King's dream has not been realized because a black boy can be murdered and his assailant can go free. Dr. King's dream has not been realized because black people are disproportionately more likely to go to prison than any other group. Dr. King's dream has not been realized because race is an important factor in how long we live, how much money we'll make, and what opportunities we'll have.

In the next 50 years, I hope we focus on the work that must be done that has kept King's dream from becoming a reality.