Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Are We Dreaming Or Is It Real? An American Report Card

More than two-thirds of African-Americans believe Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision for race relations has been fulfilled, a CNN poll found -- a figure up sharply from a survey in early 2008.

The CNN-Opinion Research Corp. survey was released Monday, a federal holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader and a day before Barack Obama is to be sworn in as the first black U.S. president.

The poll found 69 percent of blacks said King's vision has been fulfilled in the more than 45 years since his 1963 "I have a dream" speech -- roughly double the 34 percent who agreed with that assessment in a similar poll taken last March.

But whites remain less optimistic, the survey found.

"Whites don't feel the same way -- a majority of them say that the country has not yet fulfilled King's vision," CNN polling director Keating Holland said. However, the number of whites saying the dream has been fulfilled has also gone up since March, from 35 percent to 46 percent.

In the 1963 speech, delivered to a civil rights rally on the Mall in Washington, King said: "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."

"Has that dream been fulfilled? With the election of Barack Obama, two thirds of African-Americans believe it has," CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider said."

In light of this poll, I thought I would investigate the dream myself to see how close we've come to making it a general reality. I thought I would take it one dream at a time and do a kind of metric to see just who has it right, white or black, whether we've seen with Obama's ascension to the presidency, a realization of Dr. King's dream.

I won't be using any hard data, but will be relying on my own observations to reach whatever conclusion seems appropriate.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

This is still a mix bag. Some places have extended equal protection under the law to the lesbian-gay community (permitting marriage), while some states have sought to thwart and suppress those efforts.

Although segregation exists in places, we still see too much de facto segregation to truly say that all men, including women are created equal, when women are still trying to get equal pay for equal work. All in all, I would give America a 'C' in it's efforts to realize this dream.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

Given what little I could find on this subject, it appears that some hopeful signs are occurring on the horizon. Although many would concur that some progress has been made regrading this dream, I believe that I can safely assume that this part of Dr. King's dream hasn't been fully realized, so I would give Georgia a 'C+', fully aware that Georgia was a kind of barometer for racial progress during Dr. King's life.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

Well, I don't have to research this dream, because if the state of Mississippi had been "transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice," it would have made the evening news, and we surely would be in the end-times, and, I might add respectfully, with the second coming right around the corner.

Is that cynical enough!

No, Dr. King's dream has not been fully realized in the state of Mississippi, and I give that state an 'F' in terms of realizing Dr. King's dream. Barack Obama did win Mississippi's Primary thanks to the black vote there, but he lost rather sizably in the presidential race, 56.4% for McCain to 42.8% for Obama. Now if anyone has evidence to support a higher grade, meet me after school, and we'll discuss in in my office.

I have a dream that my four 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.

I'll have to go with my gut here, and say that we're beginning to make some progress in realizing Dr. King's dream. The election of Barack Obama as this nation's first sitting president gives me some hope. I think that by and large this is a reality, but I'm only given the nation a 'B-' here, because we haven't seen a full-court press to up this grade beyond the election of President Obama. I want to see a little more progress before I'm willing to say this is a dream realized.

[I wrote this blog entry some months ago, prior to the Town Hall meetings, gun-toting demonstrators, Birthers, and Deathers, and those folks clamoring for a return to the past. You know who they are--the "I want my country back" crowd. Originally I gave this category a "B-" but with recent developments, I can barely manage a "C," but I'm still hopeful.]

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is a dream not only for our nation, but for the world, and although I'm certain that we can give this nation and the world an 'F-' in this dream category, I'm still hopeful that someday--perhaps sooner, that later--we will rejoice at the realization of this dream for this nation and for all mankind.

So I would say that the whites overall have it right. Dr. King's dreams haven't been fully realized. There's still work to do. But I can also understand black folk's euphoria over the election of Barack Obama as this nation's first African American president, and see his election, if not the culmination of Dr. King's dreams, at least the beginning of them, and that's a good thing.

I would welcome your opinions as to whether Dr. King's 'Dream' has been realized, whether you think we're making progress, or believe that we still got a 'long row to hoe,' and a lot of 'water to carry' before we can say in the words of Dr. King:

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And Dr. King saw progress by the metric of freedom, for he knew where freedom was allowed to thrive, progress would follow. Where freedom was allowed to flourish, our differences wouldn't be as pronounced as those things that bound us together. He saw freedom as the grand leveler, the grand uniter, which this country had to embrace, if it wished to remain great and become even greater.

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

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