The State of the Dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes’ A Dream Deferred
Addressing a crowd of a quarter of a million people at the March on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I Have a Dream speech, 47 years ago on August 28, 1963, at the foot of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. He was 34 years old. One year later in 1964, he would become the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
During his speech in 1963, Dr. King spoke of the “ …. urgency of now” and of an unpaid check, returned and stamped “ …. insufficient funds”. He noted the incongruity existing within American society, highlighting the words contained in the document, the Declaration of Independence, which declares that “ …. all men are created equal”.
Ironically, 106 years before Dr. King’s speech, United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney quoted the same words found in the Declaration of Independence in his opinion, writing for the majority in the Dred Scott v Sanford case in 1857, denying the enslaved Dred Scott’s petition for his freedom.
Justice Taney argued in the U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion in the Dred Scott v Sanford case that the founding fathers did not intend for the inclusion of those of African descent in a vision for the nation as being “ …. created equal…. ” , stating: ....
Yet the men who framed this declaration were great men -- high in literary acquirements -- high in their sense of honor, and incapable of asserting principles inconsistent with those on which they were acting. They perfectly understood the meaning of the language they used, and how it would be understood by others; and they knew that it would not in any part of the civilized world be supposed to embrace the negro race, which, by common consent, had been excluded from civilized Governments and the family of nations, and doomed to slavery.
Despite the lopsided foundation upon which the United States has been built and maintained, through the efforts and social activism of many Americans and people of good faith throughout the world, of all races and colors, the most glaring, visual aspects of racial injustice in the United States of America have been eliminated.
There are no longer exclusionary ‘Whites Only’ signs, that existed as evidence of the one hundred year period of segregation, Black Codes and Jim Crow laws that followed the 400 year long period of slavery, preventing those of African descent the ability to seek full participation in that much sought after American Dream.
Yet, the complicated task of unraveling the fabric of systemic and statistical racial disparities that impact those of African descent and other so called minorities found in American society, for example, in relation to education, employment, poverty and incarceration, has not been addressed, with these disparities, in part, being remnants of the lingering influence of historic racial injustice.
There has been discussion and debate within the United States that the election of a man of African and of European American ancestry, Barack Hussein Obama Jr., has ushered in America’s entry into a ‘post racial era’ , noting his election as an indicator that the nation has transcended negative racially based motivations when interacting in U.S. societal issues.
The election of President Obama provides an opportunity for citizens in the United States to reflect upon how far the country has progressed. However, at the same time, it must be acknowledged that evidence of discontent related solely to the color of the President’s skin still mars the country’s psyche.
Due to the history of America’s founding and creation, a deeply entrenched, complex actuality of racially based and structured societal animus continues to threaten the attainment of Dr. King’s dream.
Gauging whether Dr. King’s dream has successfully transformed the nation, resulting in a society that is a thriving model of brotherhood among all races and colors, may not be the best indicator of or way to approach any assessment of the state of his dream. As with many things in life, lessons learned during striving toward a goal are as valuable as attaining the goal.
In this case, striving toward Dr. King’s dream becomes a testament to the state of his dream, continuing to transform those on the journey as well as the nation and the world, resulting in the conversion of the often non-substantive nature of a dream into purposeful practice and reality.
* This link discusses United States policy toward Haiti and President Thomas Jefferson's fear of the spread of slave revolts to the United States and the fear of Haiti's independence and influence in the Western Hemisphere.
The U.S. policy of non recognition of Haiti did not end until 1862.
Also at NowPublic :