“I have a dream” 50 years on

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in the March on Washington. So there will be a lot of talk about race and the progress we’ve made. And those are things that we should certainly talk about because only through education can we make true progress.

I was not alive 50 years ago, so I did not hear the speech live. But I have read it many times and I have often tried to imagine what it must have been like to be there listening to Dr. King speak after all the other speakers, and just being surrounded by all those people. It must have been a momentous feeling.

I used to think I was born in the wrong era. I wanted to be able to protest in the streets against racism and the Vietnam War. I wanted to be at Kent State or running with the Weather Underground. And this will sound even more ridiculous but I even wanted to be a Black Panther. I have been a radical leftist since I was a teenager. And so when I would think about Dr. King and his speeches, I have often thought that he didn’t go far enough. He just wants us to sit-in, when we should be fighting back.

But as I get older, I think he did have the right message. Equality is simply that. No one is better than anyone else. No one should get any more than anyone else. We should all be treated the same.

And while many claim to want the same things as Dr. King, it has not been a steady march toward progress. We have had many fits and starts. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1965. And the first black president was elected in 2008. But the Supreme Court essentially defanged the Civil Rights Act earlier this year. And in between we have had the assassination of Malcolm X, Dr. King, Fred Hampton, and George Jackson, among others. And more recently we had the killings of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin.

Nowadays the police don’t turn their water cannons and dogs on protesters, and some will argue that we live in a post-racial society. But clearly we still have long way to go before we can say that the Dream of Dr. King has been reached.

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2 Responses to ““I have a dream” 50 years on”

  1. Dr. King spoke as much about class inequality as he did about racial injustice. This is something that is almost always overlooked when people today discuss his legacy. Inequality is destructive and oppressive regardless of the ideology from which it originates.

    • Definitely. I meant to take this issue up in a later post because I totally agree with you that it is so often overlooked by those that talk about him. We all know that he wanted racial equality, but most people don’t know or think about that he wanted economic equality as well. The March on Washington was actually the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

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