Today we celebrate the 21st anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and we pay homage to the civil rights leader who came to ultimately symbolize the movement.
44 years after his most riveting and famous speech, and how much has actually changed?
“But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”
On a purely superficial level, it might seem that these particular issues have been overcome. African Americans no longer are the victims of segregration, and in the eyes of some, affirmative action has turned discrimination the other way around, much to some people’s chagrin.
Flip on BET, MTV Jams, or heck, even VH1… and black people seem to be reveling in prosperity. There we are on Cribs, showing off the contents of our refrigerators (not our characters).
Check out the hot new rap videos, and black people seem to be so rich that they’re dressing like wealthy, old, white women, literally laden in rich furs and jewels.
But so many of us still live in that lonely island of poverty, while our brethren are making it rain cash and flaunting their designer labels in that vast ocean of material prosperity.
Many of us still feel like exiles in our own land, but some of us are guilty of perpetuating those conditions.
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Those “Coloreds Only” signs are mostly posted in museums and private collections nowadays. And in 2008 – fingers crossed – we’ll all be able to cast our vote for an African American leader who at this point, appears to have the bearings of a true leader of men – although he isn’t exactly being warmly recieved by the civil rights’ old guard. But we still cannot be satisfied. And so, I’m left wondering how much of Dr. King’s dream has been achieved.
We have come so far away from those black-and-white images of men being sprayed with firehoses and women sitting in at lunch counters, that we’re able to call each other “nigga” as a form of so-called camaraderie.
“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
I live in an extremely integrated city, one that “isn’t quite part of America,” as I’ve been told by many. Having grown up where I did, and living where I now live, I don’t see interracial relationships or friendships as a big deal. But judging by some recent, disappointing comments I read on one of my favorite sites, Concrete Loop – apparently not everyone feels that way. Seriously, I was surprised that people still felt that raw about a black and white couple.
“I have a dream that my four little 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.”
I’ve been lucky in this respect. I can count the times I’ve felt truly discriminated against on two hands. We’ve made tremendous strides, I believe – many black men and women strong, college educated, and taking the business world by storm. But every so often, I’ll realize just how lucky I’ve been.
Sometimes, I become truly concerned about how we represent ourselves and the impressions our generation will leave behind. Sometimes I fear that Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy has almost been forgotten even by his own people, even by his own children – only to be resurrected in January and February for Black History Month.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
This Chicago Tribune article made me stop and wonder – damn, how much further do we still need to go?
On this day of rememberance and resolution, do you feel that much of Dr. King’s dream has been achieved, or do we need a new dream for a new era?
What are you still dreaming of, bellas and fellas?