Working towards Martin Luther King Jr's dream

We celebrate our heroes for the sacrifices they have made, but few Americans receive the heights of acclaim as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Often on social media, and sometimes during news programs, people quote him, specifically in reference to judging people by the content of their character. This is one of his most quoted remarks from Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech” delivered in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Today, on the occasion of King’s birthday, as we reflect on his legacy and the sacrifices he made, I wonder if we’ve truly lived up to his dream. I think it’s fair to say we have made leaps and bounds towards it, but is it actualized — or can it ever be? 

Human beings are instinctively tribal. We place ourselves in categories and surround ourselves with people who hold similar beliefs, and we often associate mainly with those who have similar outward appearances, such as race — so, can we ever truly become a harmonious society? 

One would hope, yet I think there are limitations. I believe that our ability to acknowledge and be aware of personal biases may be a more realistic goal than trying to achieve a perfect society void of human bias and prejudice. This is not to diminish the strides we’ve made since King’s era — and still work toward today. Indeed, there have been significant improvements in civil rights, societal awareness and legal structures aimed at fostering equality. But it is to say that a person will always have trouble judging another only by the content of their character.

Young Americans today — Gen Z, born from the mid-1990s to 2010, and Generation Alpha, those born since 2010 — are vastly different from my own generation. Yet, there is a moment of realism when you acknowledge the question: How close to King’s dream can any society ever truly get? 

Even in homogeneous societies, issues arise, often centered around religious differences, class, or gender, but people’s seemingly incessant need to classify and group things, including ourselves, seems to me to be innate. If a behavior or quality is foreign to us, perhaps understanding that and figuring out how to deal with it, especially when we see extreme instances of it, is more realistic than trying to eradicate that which can’t ever be dissolved. Taking such a course of action may get us closer to King’s dream.  

What separates us from the days of segregation is a shift in our beliefs about how we treat those who are different from us. Of course, racism, prejudice and hatred still exist in the United States, and there are people who harbor — and act upon — these despicable ideals. But a majority of Americans do not hold such beliefs. Although we may look at others differently, we must try to treat them with respect and allow our differences to coexist. Perhaps eventually that which appears “different” will begin to fade. 

King’s dream was not just about ending segregation or overcoming racial prejudices; it was also about creating a society in which everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential. This includes addressing economic disparities, ensuring access to quality education and health care, and fostering a political environment that listens to and values every voice. Progress in these areas requires not only policy changes but also a shift in societal attitudes. It involves recognizing the dignity and worth of every person, and actively working to dismantle the systems that hinder equal opportunities. 

There are still many facets of American society where equal opportunity does not exist. It may not be as overt as it was in the old days, but we must acknowledge its lasting existence through the structures that have persisted since then. These are barriers we must break down in order to transform our society into one that truly fulfills the dreams of Dr. King. 

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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