August 28th, 1963. That was the day of the greatest civilian march to Washington, D.C.. Never before had this country seen such a large and peaceful congregation of people of all colors and gender united for a common cause. The vast majority were people of color demanding their constitutional right, up to then denied to them, of equality and just like it’s happening today, decent wages and jobs. There were many women among them marching for the same purpose, for the same rights. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was leading this march and insisted that in order for their objective to become a reality the march had to be a peaceful one and thousands upon thousand of people of all races, gender, sexual orientation, religion and economic status did just that, offering the annals of history the proof that it is possible to protest in harmony and peace, with respect to one another and with dignity.
“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree is a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But 100 years later the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. So we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”
That’s the “I have a Dream” preamble to the wonderful and memorable speech given by Dr. King fifty years ago today, when he was only 34 years old. There might be those that believe that his ideals were so pure and so great precisely because he was so young, but I refuse to believe that. Dr. King was an honorable and righteous man; even when he and his family were subjected to the vile taste of hate people professed against them just because of the color of their skin. Regardless of the KKK's “subtle” messages – burning crosses on his front yard, trying unsuccessfully to terrorize him and his family, the numerous death threats, which goal was to deter him from his just cause and the unjust arrests Dr. King was subjected to, none of these tactics deterred him from pursuing what was right, to follow his call for greatness. It takes a MAN, with capital letters, to proceed with his ideals even when his own life was at stake. It takes character and dignity to proceed in a peaceful manner, to move mountains to attain an objective, to persevere when confronted by adversity. Men such as Dr. King honor humanity with their presence once in a lifetime, and always these men pay with their lives for their courage.
“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.
They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”
What is surprising is that things have not changed that much in fifty years. The tone from the racists surely is different, but racism is still alive and kicking in many cities, towns and states in the nation. Today more than ever the Right wing is diligently working at restricting people of color from voting. Racists in this country still claim that most of the people of color (brown or black) are criminals, violent, untrustworthy and ignorant, so the core hasn’t changed that much, up to a point it has gotten worse, since these racists lurk in obscurity and plan their attacks in hiding because they are cowards and are well aware that if they express their opinions and believes openly, they could be taken to court.
The Right wing nuts are being successful in their plans so far. Regressing the nation little by little to the time where racism was not only legal but for many their “god given” right. This new breed of Republicans successfully revoked the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which gave Red States carte blanche to make it very difficult, if not impossible, for minorities to vote.
While we have made great strides and we have a twice-elected by a large majority black President, it is not a coincidence that the Right wing nuts have been “up in arms” for as long as President Obama has been leading the nation. The Tea Party surfaced precisely when President Obama was elected in 2008, we all were witnesses of their hate and the true reason of their discontent during their many protests. We all saw those offensive posters depicting the newly elected president as a tribal witch doctor or the "wonderful" poster of two gorillas sporting the faces of Mr. and Mrs. Obama. Off were their masks, the offense of electing a black man to the White House gave them the right – in their opinion – to expose their feelings and hate, which they have been hiding for so long, towards people of color and it has gotten worse and worse ever since.
Dr. King’s dream is our dream but is yet to be a reality. We must never allow hate and racism to run rampant again; we must follow the dream with the same integrity, dignity and nonviolence demonstrated by Dr. King but the fight is far from over, we still have a long road ahead of us to really honor that dream but have no doubt, we will succeed because we do have a dream, a just and rightful dream!
“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. I have a dream… I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
“When we allow freedom to ring – when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.”
“I have a dream” excerpts extracted from the U.S. National Archives. To read the full text, click here