Every year when I was in grade school, recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day always involved a sort of Cliffs Notes version of the Civil Rights Movement. After that, every student would share his or her “dreams” in a sort of imitation of King’s now legendary speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1963.
Today, his speech is still as poignant and relevant as it was about 40 years ago because, despite the rhetoric that is usually dished out about the civil rights movement and the current situation of blacks in America, King’s dream has yet to be realized.
No, racism isn’t always as blatant as it was before and immediately following the Civil Rights Movement, but it still exists. In fact, after Sept. 11, it seems as if this country has regressed significantly in terms of treatment and welfare of all minority groups. To paraphrase King, black Americans and other minorities (especially Arabs and Arab Americans now) are “still languishing in the corners of American society and find [themselves] exile[s] in [their] own land.”
The realization of King’s dream isn’t impossible. It just seems intangible at this point in time because of the lackadaisical attitudes of the majority of Americans, regardless of their race. The target of racial prejudice isn’t as clear as it was, but that doesn’t mean that we should cease firing.
Sharing my dreams about the welfare of mankind always seemed pointless to me when I was younger. But dreaming is important. It’s important for minority groups especially to dream about improving our status in this country, because by doing so, we are recognizing that we are not satisfied with the status quo. And we shouldn’t be.
That leads me to my dream for this country and my people.
I dream that black Americans and other minority groups will one day experience a renewed interest in our rich past and our future as well.
I dream that we will realize that we shouldn’t comply with attempts at homogenization, and in turn become empowered by our variance. In other words, I don’t dream of a color-blind society or melting pot. Instead, I dream of a society where we can view different hair textures, full lips, different skin tones, etc., with equal reverence.
I dream of a place where I can be young, black and female, but not burdened by those factors. I dream of a time when I can sport an afro or dreadlocks and have a name like mine without fear of being overlooked for a job.
I dream that one day all people, including blacks, will realize the richness of our culture and that self-subjugation is never acceptable. I dream that one day I can discuss music without the other party assuming I listen to nothing but rap and R&B. I don’t.
I have a dream that I can talk about the continuing struggle of black Americans and other minorities in this country without receiving the usual blank stares or retorts that the Civil Rights Movement was a sort of panacea for the plague of racism in this country.
I have a dream that the ranks of those fighting for positive changes in this country swell, for the struggle will always exist in some form. I wish that the number of those united against injustice and intolerance swell to such a point that if I stood before them all, I could simply extend my hand and touch victory.
I have a dream that unity and true justice will extend to all and that we will be willing to fight in order to keep it. Then, and only then, will Dr. King’s visions of peace, love and brotherhood become tangible for all of mankind.
We will all dream of the sweetness of the coming days and we will finally be able to look back with reverence and pride at how far we have come and how far we will go.
Marquita Brown, Daily Mississippian, University of Mississippi.