One of the best motivational speeches of the modern ages remains Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream.” The lessons woven through the address have inspired many to imagine a world with one race — the human race.
In this world, I could walk into a Midwestern grocery store and not have an alarmed White child yell out, “Hey Mommy, it is a Black person,” and my mental aptitude would govern my career advancement. As a daughter of the South, I have often imagined this world. That belief in the possibilities of Dr. King’s dream world absolutely followed me through girlhood in South Carolina, across the nation as a college student, and even across the globe as a scientist. But the manifestation of that dream found crippling setbacks on occasion when someone called me nigger or attempted to reduce me to second-class status.
Then, like now, for the millions of fellow Americans who do not share in the desire to end racial hatred and bigotry, the Dream, can only be considered nightmarish. The ownness is not on Black people to dream hatred away, though, but on Whites and any other group of people abused by a sense of superiority to drop a tab of Ambien and make a moral shift. Too many Americans have come to view the Dream as a twisted tale of loss, rather than a message of collective growth. Unless and until King’s message has concrete and moral grounding, it will remain merely a tool used to fire up the imagination.
Every January, the nation is told how Dr. King’s speech is more relevant now than ever before in history. Every year the “I Have A Dream” speech is played on radio stations in its entirety to keep the nation connected to its value. What drives race insecurity to a point that it breeds hatred towards other groups? How does a nation actualize a utopian landscape void of racial markers when so much of America operates using the superficial classification of ‘race?’ How attainable is Dr. King’s dream?
The hard fact is that race determines reasonable doubt as seen in the recent footage of insurrectionists storming the U.S. Capitol. Race dictates the legally sanctioned “interest rate markup” allowed for Black auto buyers and homeowners. Race still implies a hierarchy of diminished capacity — mental, medical, economic, and moral.
Again, even as we continue to dream of better, the ownness is not on the maligned, but on those creating and upholding social injustice.
In final thought, Dr. King’s speech has one major flaw: Humans. Humans are creatures of habit and habits are not easily broken. Habits bred of hatred, fear, and a burgeoning “status deficit” have yet to yield equity or equality. The lessons knitted throughout Dr. King’s inspirational message are attainable but will remain on paper as long as humans have the ability to choose a path that jeopardizes their own assumed power.