Dr. King's Dream Has Not Been Fulfilled

It was 56 years ago that a simple Baptist Minister from Atlanta stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Behind him, a symbol of hope and change during the earlier years of our nation. In front of him, all some 250,000 people represented the force that would drive our nation to change for the better. To this day, the words he spoke echo through the ears of school children and his, "I Have a Dream" remains one of the most famous speeches in history. 

He spoke during a time of deep racial injustice, crimes committed against people simply because of the color of their skin, and the prejudice that seemed to seep from the walls of federal and state buildings. Each day, injustice ruled and victimized the negroes who fell to the mercy of those raised with prejudice engraved in their hearts and brains. Just a year before, a child of 14 years was brutally murdered and thrown to the side—like his life hadn’t mattered and shouldn’t matter simply because he was black. 

King gave us an insight to his dream—a dream that will live in the hearts of millions as a true representation of America, the America that is truly great. The dream that, “one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” A dream of judgement based on content of one’s character versus the color of one’s skin. A dream of little black boys and black girls joining hands with little white boys and little white girls.

Dr. King’s dream came to life in most ways. For the most part, white parents do not apprehend their children for playing with little black boys and girls. We’ve moved forward and cut out the nonsensical Jim Crow laws that were so deeply embedded in the southern United States. We’ve established schools and businesses that allow for the blending of races. We sit side by side with people of different colors, cultures, and backgrounds each and every day without even thinking about. We had a black president. A woman got a presidential nomination. At surface level, and by our own accord, we define ourselves as the perfect example of equality. We mix with each other each and every day, but are we truly an example of equality? 

The United States of America: it’s entire history and our ideals can be defined with one word: We. From the birth of our nation, the entire basis of our vision was simple: we the people. For a long time, the creed of “We the People,” and “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” excluded anyone that wasn’t a white male landowner. Meaning that if you didn’t fit into that category, anything you said or believed was completely thrown out of the equation—it didn’t matter because you didn’t matter. 

Today, we all have the opportunity to vote and have our voices heard, right? 

Since the Declaration of Independence, various groups of people have been excluded from voting. This has obviously been changed with the addition of Amendments 15, 19, 23, 24, and 26. These amendments granted African American men, women, citizens of Washington D.C., and 18-year-olds the right to vote. Additionally, the 24th amendment prohibited federal and state polling taxes that were once imposed prior to citizens participating in federal elections.

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. This act was a landmark piece of federal legislation, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. Because of this act, it seemed that voting was finally secure. States most likely to exclude voters (specifically states with historically racist track records), were required to gain the approval of the Department of Justice when passing new voting ordinances. So far, so good. 

It was in 2013 that the United States Supreme Court ruled that voter discrimination based on race was no longer an issue plaguing the nation and struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act. Old habits die hard because, right after that, voting restrictions have emerged from all over the United States. 

Adam Gitlin, counsel for NYU Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice, points out something critical. “There are politicians who may be opportunistic and have figured out that certain demographics in the electorate are not as likely to vote for them and perhaps have been attracted to voting restrictions that may reduce the turnout for those groups.”  These restrictive voting laws take many various forms. This includes, but is not limited to: reduced periods for voting, requiring new and difficult processes to obtain forms of ID, ending same-day voter registration, pre-registration for 16 & 17-year-olds, and ending out-of-precinct voting. 

For example, Maricopa County, Arizona closed 70% of voting centers between 2012 and 2016. The majority of the closures took place in Hispanic dominated neighborhoods. This is taking place all over the nation—targeting by race/ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic standings (McCarthy). 

Aside from voting suppression, other forms of inequality are taking place. One issue that is difficult to solve is the inequality of education quality and opportunity in neighborhoods dominated by minorities. This is due to the fact that schools are funded by property taxes in their neighborhoods. It goes without saying that property tax is going to be higher in say, a high-income neighborhood in Massachusetts in comparison to inner-city Detroit. 

One issue that is impossible to ignore is that of police brutality and the relationship between law enforcement officers and African Americans. The first time this issue really came into my view was in 2014, when Ferguson broke into protests and riots the day after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in August. The riots ensued for a second wave in November when Officer Wilson was not indicted on the basis of self-defense. 

The issue has risen once again in the case of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old boy who was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke. He was sentenced to nearly 7 years in prison on January 18th. He was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery (Babwin & Tarm). While this is progress in comparison to all the people that have gotten off even though there's been mountains of evidence, 7 years is not nearly enough for the horrible crime committed. 

Dr. King’s dream of equality has not been fulfilled. Racism drips and oozes from every corner of our nation, labeled as something else with a cover slapped on the top of it.

His dream is our dream. The dream of a fully equal America—an America that doesn’t pretend that differences don’t exist—but instead, embraces them. An America that seats us at the table of brotherhood with pride. An America that exists and lives out it’s creed and basis of We. 

We can make that dream come true. The biggest thing that we can do in order to fulfill that dream of We is to spread love and acceptance. Embrace the differences between us. Praise the men and women around you. Fight back when you see someone being oppressed. Speak for those with no voice. "Stick with love. Hate is too great of a burden to bear."

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