I don’t think Dr. King dreamt of President Obama, Reginald F. Lewis, Condoleezza Rice, or Oprah per se. Too often, these individuals, and other gifted people, are presented as post-racial symbols of a struggle long passed. This type of loose logic ignores the challenges facing People of Color. Equally misconceived would be to suggest Warren Buffett’s financials are representative of all Americans.
Dr. King was well educated and a thoughtful student of history. He knew in 1963 that he stood on the shoulders of a great many exceptional African American women and men – people who excelled against great odds, facing daily dangers uncommon to the 1960s African American.
Even with the knowledge of past individual accomplishments, Dr. King recognized there was still more to demand for African Americans. Like the constitution, Dr. King spoke and dreamt of collective justice, not simply individual growth opportunities.
Picture a house designed in every way for entrapment. On its collapse, all within are buried. No search and rescue is ordered, minimal aid provided is slow and given reluctantly. As the weeks and months pass, many inside die, and all suffer. Only the most athletic and talented find their way out.
This is not the picture of justice Dr. King painted for us.
The lack of captivity is not equivalent to freedom, and the granting of civil rights is not justice. President Obama’s well-earned political ascendance is not evidence of African Americans receiving “Sufficient Funds” from the bank of justice.
I believe, if Dr. King were here today he would agree; 153 years later, the Negro is still not truly free in America.
It’s true, African Americans now have more opportunity and safety than at any other time in American history. However, no American should be satisfied with the suffrage African Americans still face today.
By all things socially measurable: the likelihood of police brutality, education opportunity, unemployment, health and wellness, criminal justice, African Americans suffer disproportionally to their white counterparts.
Do these problems derive from inherent deviance, uncontrollable laziness, or lack of intelligence? No, the issues we face stem from being socially and economically buried alive.
The fierce urgency of now demands that we address and assist those still trapped. The Dream is not of a single man or woman’s rise, nor the lifting of hundreds. Dr. King Dreamt of an America with her arms opened to all her children. Punishing them if need be with truly blind justice, affording all the benefit of the doubt, and teaching all with an indiscernible degree of passion.
“They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him … and we will see what will become of his dreams.”