As Monday, January 20th winds down, so too are the main celebrations and observances of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday. As is the case between his actual birthday (of January 15th) and the Monday following it (in observing the holiday), there are a series of entities which conduct some level of celebration and recognition. Ranging from multiple parades and marches, sermons focusing on the philosophies of Dr. King, and community service projects including feeding the homeless to cleaning up a street, there are a number of reminders of the influence of King in calling for a better society.
Included in this call is the often quoted but still momentous conversation with America in the form of the "I Have a Dream" speech. Delivered on August 28, 1963 at the base of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, King's call in a renewed sincerity and spirit for equal treatment and discernment is the order of the day, especially as it relates to being judged "by the content of your character" as compared to the color of one's skin.
In the initial years after this speech, legislation in the form of the Civil Rights Act (of 1964) and the Voting Rights Act (of 1965) seemed to provide examples of elements of the Dream coming to fruition. However, as King's shift in "calling out" America for its questionable practices abroad in the form of the Vietnam War, along with larger class-related issues, once the date April 4, 1968 comes into being, King's physical being is no longer in a state of being (due to his assassination).
Fast-forwarding to 2014, nearly 51 years after the Dream is first discussed, and the actions that are taking place are seemingly a little disjointed. It does make one wonder how the deliberate hindering of access to voting in the form of invalidating elements of the Voting Rights Act equates to fair and reasonable access. On an economic scale, one has to wonder how the call for economic equity is being answered when in a 100 year cycle (1900 to 2000), African-Americans' land-owning decreased from 15 million acres of farm land to 3 million acres, let alone the control of hospitals declined from 200 to 3 (taken from Before the Mayflower-A History of Black America/New Millennium Edition).
And what of the outcry on external or internal attacks of self-image and definition, ranging from Madonna's recent "term of endearment" moniker to the misguided actions of the very people whom King tried to make things better for, in the form of party flyers.
Are people really Dreaming? Or are they somewhat delusional?
We are all aware that work needs to be done, but sometimes, it seems as if under the haze and gaze of everything is or is going to be alright by sitting back and waiting, the sitting "idly by" is something King warned against in the ongoing battle for social change and equity, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, and other interpersonal measures. Be it challenges to the middle class as we know it, added allocation of funds for the prison system complex, or the increasing costs (and eroding access) of a higher education, it sure does not sound like the "Great Society" that King envisioned.
Then again, in addition to keeping the larger societal structures in check and accountable, individual accountability has to increase as well. When more people patronize a television show in which one of its stars thinks the Underground Railroad is an actual train, compared to attending a school board meeting to provide input on policy, or even getting the extra help one needs for their academic, professional, and personal success (considering that a considerable number of adults and students have their challenges when it comes to public speaking or essential reading and writing skill sets), I think a number would say this isn't anywhere remotely close to the Dream.
Work still remains. Be it in the form of your local school, library, community organization, professional association, alumni association, all the way to researching the platforms of those running for office, there is something we can all do in order to make things a tad bit better for our current and future communities. Supporting infrastructure ranging from small businesses to Greenspace can at least be a step in the right direction to do your part. While perfection may not ever be achieved, improvement and making things better surely can.
Quit daydreaming, and make an attempt to have a concrete Dream.