Looking at the Facts

If King were alive today, what aspects of American society would he feel had become a part of his "dream?" What would he see as being outside the scope of his dream? What suggestions do you think he would make to improve relations between whites and blacks?

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King preached his dream for America. He hoped to see a country where "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." The question to ask is: "Has America abandoned the project of establishing racial equality?"

In Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, he said, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it's creed: We hold these truth to be self-evident that all men are created equal." If Marin Luther King were still alive today, he would only be half- satisfied in the carrying out of his dream. Yes, by means of the 14th amendment to the constitution all men are now created equal, but as we look at equality in society, we find a whole new world of racism and prejudice. To further our knowledge on the subject of racial equality, our class watched an Oprah Winfrey special called "Shades of a Different Protein." This show gave us an inside view of the opinions of many Americans. Some of the remarks were truly upsetting. "Judge people one what is on the inside", "How can you represent me if you don't know me" (referring to the number of African Americans in the U.S. Government). "Racism is everywhere." Some remarks were appalling. Several white teens were constantly referring to blacks as "Niggers", saying that they were worthless. One man even spoke about an all white country( hoping that a land of all whites would be present in the future). As we think about society today the quote, "Can't we all just get along" always seems to come to mind.

Viewing the world today, reality takes shape as one notices how much of Martin Luther King's dream has not come to be. There are too many prejudice people to help correct the problem of inequality. Blacks are still discriminated against in job hiring and in receiving public service. For example, only two out of all seventy North Hagerstown High School faculty are black. Nationally in 1989 the black unemployment rate was 20% while the white was only around 7% (Seattle Times). Unfortunately things have not gotten better. It seems that the "separate but equal" phrase from Plessy vs. Ferguson is still in effect in spite of the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954.

The United States has barely scratched the surface of equality for all. The government has been using Affirmative Action to require businesses, schools, and unions to hire thousands of blacks and other minorities to make up for past discriminatory policies, that have limited people's opportunities. Businesses, schools, and unions should not be forced to recruit a certain number of people in ethnic minorities. They should hire because of capability not because of what color their skin is, or where they are from. Not all schools have integrated blacks with whites. The ones that have are generally funded by the government and by law they have to integrate. The majority that have not are private schools. The United States has barely begun to have "equality under the law".

Today blacks still struggle in the battle for racial equality. The nation does not live up to the standards of Martin Luther King's dream. Unfortunately, the cooperation of all Americans is just not visible. It seems impossible to have a non-prejudice society. The problem exists in schools, workplaces, restaurants, and in neighborhoods. We can only hope for a day when the change will come and as Martin Luther King once said, "all of God's children...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!"

By: Andrew M.
Kristin F.
Natalie F.


Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, (1963)
Seattle Times statistics by Christopher Edley and Gene Sperling, (1989)
The Oprah Winfrey show "Shades of a Different Protein" (1992)

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