Realizing Rev. King’s Dream

Discussion
Jan 17, 2005
George Anderson

Editorial by George Anderson

On Aug. 28, 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his famous speech where he said his was “the American dream,” where one day the entire nation would live according to the creed stated in our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

On that same day, Rev. King spoke about the need for urgency to, as he put it, “open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children.”

More than 40 years since Rev. King gave that speech in the nation’s capital, there is a sense among many that a divide still exists within our society. To be sure, some of the ills Rev. King sought to cure have been treated, if not eradicated.

Today, in the private and public sectors, people such as Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Richard Parsons and Aylwin Lewis have risen to positions of authority based on their achievements and leadership abilities.

Many others, however, find themselves still stuck in a “dark and desolate valley” as Rev. King spoke about in 1963. Then, it was segregation that prevented all of this nation’s citizens from living the American dream.

Today, signs are no longer posted to tell us where people may and may not go. The roadblocks set up today are less visible than in Rev. King’s time. Police dogs and water cannons are not nightly viewing on any of the news networks.

The impediments today, some say, are less about race and more about economic status. The gulf between the haves and have-nots has been steadily widening and many of the same problems preventing young African-Americans from climbing out of the ghetto are the same as those keeping Caucasians and other ethnic groups from doing the same. Poor education, insufficient medical services, drug abuse, crime and all the other crippling attachments of poverty are in abundance, regardless of the racial makeup, where hope is fading and help is promised but rarely delivered.

Today, much of the nation honors the legacy of Rev. King on the date of his birth. It is important we remind ourselves that his dream was for all Americans and not simply members of his own race.

“When we let freedom ring,” he said, “when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Moderator’s Comment: Why are the top levels of retail management still largely comprised of white males?

Although racism tends to be much more subtle today than back when Rev. King was jailed in Birmingham, Ala., there are still overt cases to remind us that
we are a long way from where his dream would have us be.

Last year, the Cracker Barrel chain paid $8.7 million to settle lawsuits brought by the NAACP and others accusing it of denying service to some African-Americans
while segregating others in the smoking section of its restaurants. Cracker Barrel employees were accused of using racial slurs and even feeding food from the garbage to Black
customers.

The chain also settled a similar suit with the U.S. Department of Justice.
George Anderson – Moderator

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