This week marks 50 years since Dr. King’s landmark I Have a Dream Speech. Many people see that speech as the watermark in the Civil Rights movement. It was after the Emmett Till tragedy, the Birmingham Bus boycott but prior to the historic Civil Rights legislation of 1964 & 1965.
As we reflect on the trials and tribulations of a half century ago, some things have changed such having a black man in the White House who is not a butler but leader of the free world. But we see the economic disparity between blacks and whites is almost equal to 50 years ago.
There are still waves of violence but instead of lynchings in the south, we have black on black crime and nowhere is it worse but in my hometown of Chicago. Where also we have a disregard for education for our children which schools closings (primary in low income areas), and forcing children to change schools and go through “safe passages” which seem anything but. Too reminiscent of the “Middle Passage” our ancestors took and many did not survive.
Also we see that the hard fought Voters Rights Bill of 1965 has been watered down because it was thought the 9 states that needed federal observation could be trusted not to make obstacles to the ballot box. But already Texas passed legislation (the day after the restrictions were lifted), to add ID’s to their voting process and now once again the federal government had to sue and get involved to make sure the voting process is not being impeded.
I think Dr. King gave us a road map and high goals to keep his dream and the civil rights movement alive, obviously there is work to be done. But progress has been made, in the form of integration in many places and interracial marriage. Many of us have been able to go to the schools of our choice and get the education that was not available to our ancestors.
However we have not had a civil rights leader like Dr. King since his death in April 1968 and though at times it seems we may not need to lead anymore, we are not in a post racial society. For all we have gained, have seen incidents like Rodney King, Trayvon Martin & Oscar Grant (which is basis of the recent independent movie "Fruitvale Station").
I think Dr. King would want to us to be still be non violent, yet aware of the inequalities around us and to make sure to address these issues. Even if they don’t affect us personally, we need to help our other brothers and sisters. The civil rights movement was not about a few but the masses and making sure there is freedom for all.
Too many times now we see the elite and how their world is different from ours and this is strictly about economics and opportunity. Look no further than the cost and accessibility for a decent education.
Not since before the Brown vs Board of Education in 1954 has there been such a disparity and challenge for all to be educated. The price of a college education is definitely something Dr. King would find fault in and the excessive debt many of us graduated with. For many it makes higher education and the American Dream out of reach.
And that’s not what Dr. King wanted, his dream was equality and opportunities for all, not just a chosen few.
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