The Dream: Has It Come True?

The Dream: Has It Come True?

On Good Friday of 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from a Birmingham jail, voicing his thoughts on the storm of protest that was raging against racism and discrimination. He spoke of the two forces in the black community that stood in the path of justice: the complacent middle-class and the embittered black nationalists. As an alternative to these two extremes he offered the method of peaceful protest. He warned whites that "oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever." On August 28, 1963, King addressed the U.S. Congress at Washington, demanding legislation to grant all Americans "access to all public accommodations, decent housing, adequate and integrated education and the right to vote. After berating the American government for defaulting on a "promissory note" of civil rights, he inspired the crowd of over 250,000 demonstrators with his "I have a dream" speech. King spoke of the more insidious evils of discrimination, hoping that someday his children would "live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." (Jet, 1/20/92) The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, but more than thirty years later, many wonder if it is not just another "bad check" for justice.

In response to the riots and brutality in Selma, Alabama, President Johnson urged Congress and the nation to advocate a voting rights bill in his March 15 address of 1965. His aim was to stir moderate white voters and Congressmen out of their indifference. "Their cause must be our cause too," Johnson said, "because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice." Thirty years after the Voting Rights Act was passed, that legacy is still a stumbling block in the road to equality. Although about 7800 African Americans now hold elected offices in the U.S., compared with less than 50 in 1955, this is still less than 2% of all elected officials (Jet, 1/20/92). In 1986, unemployment among whites was at 5.3%, compared with 12.7% among blacks (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Only 62.3% of the black population completed high school in 1986. This is hardly the adequate education of King's dream. We have much more work to do if the dream is to be realized.

by Eugenie V.

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