A relatively young and positively profound man spoke of a dream he had 50 years ago today.
It was a dream he had for a better way of life, where all are treated as they were created — as equals.
Fifty years later, has that dream been fully realized? While positive steps have been taken in those 50 years, we can also point to areas — even in recent events — where positive steps that have been taken have been reversed. In some cases, it’s been like taking one or two steps forward while taking nearly 50 steps back.
In one day, the Supreme Court gave empowerment to those states that had ruled to accept gay marriage, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. A basic right for a couple to marry regardless of sexual orientation had been upheld, adding it to the mix of the rights given to those of any race, creed or religion … the things that make us human. It was like taking two steps forward.
The day before, that same Supreme Court saw fit to throw out one of the most crucial components of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which helped to ensure that every person eligible to vote — regardless of race, creed or religion, the things that make us human — could go to the polls and do so. The majority opinion said that enough time had gone by since 1965, when race was a bigger issue, that the rules needed to be redrawn. They decided to leave that redrawing in the hands of the United States Congress, a body of lawmakers growing more dysfunctional by the day, divided by a belief that “compromise” is an obscene word. It was like taking at least 50 steps backward, helping to erase progress made after hundreds of years of injustice seen before.
On a personal level, the steps forward that were taken on the issue of gay marriage hit home in the last few weeks when good friends of ours who had shared 20-plus years together in a same-sex partnership made a journey from Florida to Washington, D.C., so they could legally exchange wedding vows. One of those friends has been fighting a tough, agonizing battle with cancer. That friend was instrumental in helping my family make it through our own agony of a year and three months of being unemployed. Not once did our friend ever ask for our opinion on matters like gay rights. We always saw each other as equals, fighting our own unique battles. For those friends of ours, it’s a struggle to survive to this day. The prayers continue.
Staying on that personal level just a bit more, I’m still working at a decent job that I’ve held since mid-March. While we can see steps being taken forward in our own lives in terms of being able to hang onto our home and providing food, clothing, and an education for ourselves, in many ways the effects of long-term unemployment are proving to be long-lasting. Instead of worrying about finding a job in order to survive, the struggle has gone back to living from paycheck to paycheck with a job and finding it to be even tougher than before.
We’re not alone. Far from it.
Just how bad is it out there? When a man finds it necessary to rob a bank of $1 so he can be put behind bars in order to get health care, it’s pretty bad. It’s also pretty bad when one of the best things a political party can find to do in the U.S. House of Representatives is to vote to repeal that right to health care, not once but dozens of times.
It’s still necessary in this land of the free to have to fight for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — the things that were talked about by that relatively young, profound man 50 years ago today.
It’s still necessary to have to fight for the right to vote, and it didn’t get easier with the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act ruling. After all, it only took Texas a matter of hours after that ruling to do what lawmakers had long wanted in making it harder for people — mainly those among the ever-shrinking minorities — to cast their votes.
It’s becoming harder for women to exercise their right to choose what they do with their own bodies. Again, in Texas, Democratic Senator Wendy Davis put up a valiant fight for women’s rights on a state level, only to see her fight eventually get beaten down.
Still, I haven’t talked much yet here about race issues — the main focus of that relatively young, profound man’s speech 50 years ago today. At least not until now.
It’s true, blacks have made very positive strides over the past 50 years. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we think the issue of race has gone away.
When the legitimacy of America’s first black President from the Democratic side is called into question by fringe elements over the place of his birth when proof is offered that he was born in America, and the howls over that legitimacy are repeated over at least 4 1/2 years by everyone from radio and television talk show hosts to ordinary citizens to multimillionaire real estate barons with bad hair, it’s troubling.
When a U.S. Senator of mixed race who was born in Canada can talk about running for President in 2016, and those same people of a conservative bent who’ve howled for 4 1/2 years over the black Democrat’s “legitimacy” offer nary a peep over their man’s legitimacy when it’s proven the conservative candidate is not a natural born citizen … it goes beyond troubling, into the realm of disgusting.
We can celebrate the end of segregation, the end of so many Jim Crow laws, the increase of inter-racial marriages, etc. But then stories like the following keep popping up on occasion, and it leaves one to wonder.
We can celebrate the progress that’s been made since Martin Luther King, Jr., told us about his dream in a historic way. There are, however, still too many signs being seen to this day, exactly 50 years later, that indicate there is still much left to be done. In too many cases, we’re moving backward instead of forward.
The dream of Dr. King is still alive. For the hope of humanity, we need to continue to hold out hope that one day we’ll all wake up and that dream will have become a full-fledged reality.
Black, white, Latino, Caucasian, male, female, straight, gay … it’s up to all of us.
- WE Have a Dream: revisiting Dr. King’s speech, 50 years later (evergreeninstitute.wordpress.com)
- 50 Years After the March, New Enemies of Racial Equality Have Mobilized Against the Dream (thedailybanter.com)
- King’s deferred ‘Dream’ of democracy (blogs.reuters.com)
- 50 Years After March On Washington, John Lewis Still Fighting (wnyc.org)
- 50th Anniversary Of Dr King’s “I Have A Dream” (bernews.com)
- Cokie Roberts: Changes to Voting Rights ‘Downright Evil’ (abcnews.go.com)
- Mary Kay Henry: Marching for an Inclusive Dream (huffingtonpost.com)
- A half-century after the ‘dream’: 10 signposts on America’s race journey (cnn.com)
- Revisiting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Dream’ (miamiherald.com)