Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Today, sadly, we still live in a society far removed from the goals King profoundly echoed to millions on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
Fifty years ago, America witnessed mass racism and segregation on a widespread level. “Whites only” signs were plastered across the South — movie theaters, restaurants, public restrooms, even ambulances. Blacks were subject to oppresion in almost every facet of life. Simply being in the wrong place could constitute jail time, and that was considered a light punishment.
Racial relations have come a remarkable distance, however. King’s speech served as an impetus for a multitude of changes and shifts in society to eliminate a significant amount of the harsh and cruel discrimination against people of color, culminating in the election of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president. Yet, to think today’s society can be considered to be the product of King’s words is simply premature.
Blacks may not be subject to the same torture and humiliation they faced 50 years ago, but those scars haven’t healed — many blacks still face enormous amounts of discrimination in their daily lives.
“The Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity,” King once said. While this may not be entirely true today, the disparity blacks face economically and educationally is the defining difference between black and white Americans.
Despite the fact that they are enfranchised, blacks are still subject to poverty and racism. And this culminates in fewer chances for blacks to be educated in America’s school system. Larger income gaps and skyrocketing unemployment rates mean fewer chances to break the poverty line and fewer opportunities for blacks to receive a college education, thereby perpetuating the already desperate circumstances.
This endless cycle of poverty must stop. Legislators must embrace education as the primary path to break this horrific mold into which blacks are forced to conform. To combat such a problem, funding for the revitalization of school systems in predominantly black neighborhoods, revamping of lesson plans and increases in the opportunities for children who want to achieve a better education should be pursued. The choice is simple.
King would have never settled for the progress we’ve seen since he delivered his iconic speech 50 years ago. If we want to see the orator’s dream come to fruition, the shackles of racism between Americans must be broken until all are “free at last.” Education is not race subjective, it is a national right.