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Justice

Martin Luther King Jr
Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Photo credit: NPS

The divide between white and Black remains too pronounced for a country in which everybody is supposed to be treated as equals. Maybe their water fountains no longer stand apart, but there are gaps everywhere else.

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The images are black and white and the sound quality isn’t amazing, so one might be excused for thinking that the “March on Washington” happened a lifetime ago. However, it did not.

In fact, had his life not been cut short by a racist with a gun in Memphis, TN, Martin Luther King Jr. would be younger today than former President Jimmy Carter.

This week, just ahead of the 60th anniversary of the slain civil rights leader’s most famous speech on August 28, 1963, another racist with a gun, this one in Jacksonville, FL, served as a painful and deadly reminder that the day King dreamt of has not yet come to pass.

“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,” King said on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a monument dedicated to the great American who freed the slaves.

The good news is that the US has undoubtedly gotten closer to that day. The bad news is that it still seems impossibly far away.

The divide between white and Black remains too pronounced for a country in which everybody is supposed to be treated as equals. Maybe water fountains no longer stand apart, but there are gaps everywhere else.

There are still significant differences in everything from income, wealth, employment, home ownership, nutrition, access to health care or a quality education, college graduation rates, and many more metrics.

And, instead of promoting policies to bridge these divides, the same ideological forces that opposed King’s dream in 1963 are now standing in the way of achieving greater diversity.

At the same time, the same people are desperate to keep children from learning the true history of the country. They only want kids to know the good, even though it would be beneficial for them to learn from the misdeeds and mistakes of the past.

And these are just the measurable metrics.

It’s impossible to see what is in the hearts of people. However, the broad support that politicians espousing white nationalist views are enjoying these days indicates that the hearts of too many Americans are much darker than the skin of the people they still hate.

And it’s not just the killer in Jacksonville.

Racism is a cancer that still permeates too much of America.

Perhaps nowhere is this reflected as much as in voting rights. Many states, especially in the South, are continuing to erect barriers in front of Black voters to keep them from voting.

From gerrymandered districts stripping African Americans of their right to equal representation, to voter suppression laws that remain so prevalent in these states, they are doing all they can to keep Black voters away from the ballot box.

Sadly, the Supreme Court, once a tool to bring about greater equality, now does the opposite.

So, yes, the day King dreamt about is a bit closer now than 60 years ago, but it is still far out of reach.

 

Author

  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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