Racism still rampant as King is remembered

“We cannot turn back”: King speaks at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

Tomorrow, exactly 90 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr was born. All around the world over the coming days, the great civil rights leader will be honoured. But has his dream come true?

Martin Luther King Jr shaped the civil rights movement for over a decade. He campaigned against racism, poverty and war. His vision was most memorably expressed in a now-legendary speech.

On a hot August afternoon in 1963, King stood before 250,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “We cannot be satisfied,” he said, as long as African-Americans face segregation, police brutality and disenfranchisement.

He then began to speak personally. “I have a dream,” he announced, and described his hope that races would someday join hands in a fair, tolerant society. Only thus would Americans become “free at last”.

In many ways, King’s dream has come true. The law no longer allows segregation, and it protects everyone’s right to vote. The US is home to black billionaires and CEOs. It has had a black president.

Yet racial disparities still exist. Black citizens earn less, own less and die younger than the average American. They are more likely to be homeless or behind bars. By many measures, racial segregation is growing.

Police brutality against blacks has inspired movements such as Black Lives Matter. Meanwhile, the election of Donald Trump — a president endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan — has many questioning what the Obama presidency did for race.

Is there hope for King’s dream?

Race against time

Racism is still rampant, say some. In many ways, it is getting worse; the wealth gap between whites and minorities is growing. The transition from Obama to Trump says it all: as a nation, the US does not care enough about racial equality.

Let’s not forget what has changed, say others. The sheer brutality of racism in King’s day would shock us now. Legal obstacles to equality are gone. Society still has a way to go, but people are discussing racism more openly than ever.

You Decide

  1. Can a society completely rid itself of racism?

Activities

  1. Write and deliver a short speech beginning with the phrase “I have a dream”. It should focus on a change you want to see in your country, but does not have to be about race.

Some People Say...

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Martin Luther King Jr

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
In April 1968, King was in Memphis, Tennessee, to support a sanitation workers’ strike. He was shot dead by a sniper on his motel’s balcony on the 4th.
What do we not know?
Controversy surrounds the killing. James Earl Ray, a small-time criminal, confessed to it, but then retracted his confession. King’s family believed that he was innocent, but he is widely seen as the murderer.

Word Watch

Disenfranchisement
Being denied a right or privilege, especially the right to vote.
Billionaires
According to Forbes, in 2017 there were only three are black American billionaires: Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and Robert Smith.
Ku Klux Klan
David Duke, the Klan’s former leader, said that Trump was “the best of the lot” among the presidential candidates. Trump rejected the endorsement, but reluctantly.
Minorities
Between 1983 and 2013, the average black household gained $18,000 in wealth. The average white family gained $301,000. (According to the report “The Ever-Growing Gap”).

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