In the Mix

August 23, 2013

“I Have a Dream…”

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Written for: Communicado Magazine
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August 28, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington and the original delivery of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “I Have a Dream.”

The original march was actually, The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was attended by 250,000 people and for its time, was the largest demonstration seen by the Nation’s Capital and also seen on television. It was history in the making and from accounts of people who attended and live to tell about it, they knew history was happening…

So of course, everyone wants to ask the question, “Is the dream fulfilled?” My thought is that everyone has their own answer to that question, but, I want to address the question as it relates to public persons who weigh in and I want to address it based on some recent events that shed light on the answer.

First, the public persons… and I mostly mean journalists, pundits and commentators. Because of the anniversary, every political show and every-other talk show wants to discuss the state of race relations in the United States. And they all want to say its gotten so much better. I ask, has it gotten better, or, is it just different?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 cleared a path to freedom for everyone. It leveled the playing field LEGALLY, but, did it create equality in attitude? Here are three examples to consider:

Paula Deen: PD got sued for discrimination and over the course of her deposition, she admitted that she has used the N word in the past. We don’t know how recently in her past she was admitting, but, an admission none-the-less. Was it 1959… or 1973 or 1992? This is my point about attitudes.

As I wrote in another post in Communicado magazine, PD grew up in the south in the 1950’s – we know she said it then because, it was culturally acceptable then. She grew up in that culture and we have no proof that her childhood conditioning ever changed her attitude about black people. She said she doesn’t think that way anymore and I’m willing to take her word for it, but… This is my point about attitudes…

NYC: A judge recently outlawed the NYC police departments policy of STOP AND FRISK. The judge ruled it unconstitutional because the proportion of targets who were stopped and frisked were egregiously black and hispanic. The NYPD defended the program suggesting that the numbers of black and hispanic suspects was in direct proportion to the larger population of black and hispanic residents of NYC.

Whether the population is proportionate to the numbers or not, NYC resident’s of color are not on board. Again, attitudes, but, from the other perspective…
Trayvon Martin: OH my, what did I bring this up for? Because it is probably the most glaring example that race relations in this country may not be better, they’re just different. I want to jump right to the point on this one: Trayvon Martin was shot to death by a half white, half hispanic adult male. He was put on trial and acquitted. Opinions aside, facts or no facts, black people see this as unjust. Period. Yes, there are many white people who find this unjust as well, but, the history and experiences continue to live with black people.

Back to the commentators and the pundits for a moment – The more conservative of the lot say this was not a racially motivated crime. The jury was given instructions and based on the evidence, race was not a factor in this shooting. Ask a black person if they think it was racially motivated and see if you have to wait for the answer.

I’ve only seen white commentators and conservatives say they don’t think it was racially motivated. The black attorney’s who weigh in on the verdict, citing their clear understanding of how the legal system works still exhibit signs of ambivalence and skepticism. The single juror of color said she thinks it was racially motivated and the shooter got away with murder, but, based on her instructions, she had to find him not guilty. Perception is reality. Attitudes prevail…

So it’s 2013… 50 years later. Everyone can use the same bathrooms; Everyone can sit wherever they’d like on a bus and in a restaurant, but, is EVERYONE good with that? When we’re sure of the answers to those questions, the dream will be fulfilled. As we continue to have to ask those questions, it means we are still working at progress in race relations.

It’s being judged by, “The content of their character,” that needs to be confirmed…