Is King's Dream Still Alive?Roundup
tags: racism, civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr.
Peniel E. Joseph is the Barbara Jordan chair in ethics and political values and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor of history. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Third Reconstruction: America’s Struggle for Racial Justice in the Twenty-First Century.
Today, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is best remembered for a singular phrase in a soaring, panoramic keynote speech given by the 34-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream” became an instantly memorable line, so indelible that President John F. Kennedy, who met with King and other civil rights leaders that evening years ago, repeated the line back to the Atlanta-born preacher upon his arrival at the White House.
Surrounded by the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, before an audience of a quarter million people, King delivered a speech that was part religious sermon, historical seminar and political analysis. King held up the founding documents of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as sacred promises that remained, for Black Americans, unfulfilled. “And so we’ve come to cash this check,” he said, for reparations for over a century of violent indignities that continued into the present.
What took place on August 28, 1963, served as a highpoint of America’s Second Reconstruction, the heroic period of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s when the walls of segregation, Jim Crow and state-sanctioned discrimination came tumbling down, brick by painful brick. King delivered his address on the centennial year of the Emancipation Proclamation, an anniversary he urged Kennedy to publicly acknowledge and amplify from the presidential bully pulpit. Kennedy, compelled by racial justice demonstrations and protests in Birmingham, Alabama, and around the nation, did so on June 11, in a televised address that offered a full-throated support for Black citizenship and dignity.
Against the backdrop of the racial and political reckoning of 2020 and the racial progress and political backlash that have followed, it is worth asking the question: Is the dream that King spoke of at the March on Washington alive in our own time?
The answer is a resounding yes.
The Biden-Harris Administration continues to take meaningful policy steps towards building the “Beloved Community” that King outlined at the March on Washington. From Biden’s inaugural address, where he became the first president to characterize white supremacist racial terror as an existential threat to democracy to executive orders that centered equity, this has thus far been an extraordinary presidency. As the nation heads toward the midterm elections, it is worth taking a deeper dive into what the Biden Administration has managed to accomplish in the most divisive political climate in perhaps more than a century.
The American Rescue Plan legislation passed at the start of 2021 represented a $1.9 trillion investment in post-Covid economic recovery that prioritized frontline health care, first responders, teachers, and communities in a manner that positively impacted workers of color. The legislation included direct cash benefits that assisted Black and Latino families experiencing severe economic hardship as a result of the pandemic. In addition, the Biden plan extended unemployment benefits for millions and deferred the repayment of student loans and rent. The passage of the infrastructure bill represents another generational investment in spending toward the public good in a nation where roads, bridges, subways and tunnels, especially in racially segregated and economically impoverished areas, have been victims of disinvestment and decay.
comments powered by Disqus
- Josh Hawley Earns F in Early American History
- Does Germany's Holocaust Education Give Cover to Nativism?
- "Car Brain" Has Long Normalized Carnage on the Roads
- Hawley's Use of Fake Patrick Henry Quote a Revealing Error
- Health Researchers Show Segregation 100 Years Ago Harmed Black Health, and Effects Continue Today
- Nelson Lichtenstein on a Half Century of Labor History
- Can America Handle a 250th Anniversary?
- New Research Shows British Industrialization Drew Ironworking Methods from Colonized and Enslaved Jamaicans
- The American Revolution Remains a Hotly Contested Symbolic Field
- Untangling Fact and Fiction in the Story of a Nazi-Era Brothel