Wednesday, August 28, 2013
50 years later: I'm still waiting for the dream
I still have a dream -that was my first thought today upon reflecting on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech 50 years ago.
I’m still dreaming. Yes, it’s easier to envision the end of the journey, but we’re not there yet.
With all the talk about this being a post-racial America, it’s easy to relegate the celebration of King’s speech as ratification that racial preference, discrimination, and prejudice have faded since the march. Many are quick to point to the election of Barack Obama as President and the acceptance of interracial marriage as proof that King’s dream has arrived.
The notion of a post-racial America rose after the Pew Research Center conducted a poll in collaboration with National Public Radio that indicated that 39% of blacks felt they were better off than five years ago. The poll, conducted in 2010, revealed an increase of 19% from the previous poll taken in 2008.
The Pew poll led to a fury of research on the subject of a post-racial America. Roy H Kaplan wrote The Myth of Post-Racial America: Searching for Equality in the Age of Materialism In 2011. The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America?, by Gregory Parks and Matthew Hughley, Walter Rodgers’ A year into Obama’s presidency, is America post racial?, and Michael Tesler and David O. Sears wrote Obama's Race: The 2008 Election and the Dream of a Post-Racial America.
For many, the election of Barack Obama proves the United States in no longer hindered by institutionalized racism. Blacks fighting for their fair share of the American Dream can no longer blame their inferior state on structural racism, but can only blame themselves for the massive dysfunction that prevents their advancement.
Can you feel the spirit of post-race in the air?
The view of a post-racial America is reflected in radical shifts in public policy. The conception of post-race justifies recent setbacks in voting rights and affirmative action by the US. Supreme Court. It has consequences related to numerous actions by the North Carolina General Assembly. Is it possible for the election of a black man to undo all the hate and institutionalized bigotry that has haunted America in only five years?
Its clear most Americans don’t know how to feel about race. We want to believe we are living in a post-race era; however, is there enough evidence to suggest we are past the assumptions we all make because of race?
Or, is it possible that issues facing black Americans have been pushed aside as America deals with a load of other isms. Have Americans grown tired of the talk related to black inclusion, placed it all on the backburner and given attention to other concerns?
That’s the argument made by Bob Woodson, head of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. Hood, speaking before the Republican National Committee celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, says he’s unhappy that gay, immigrant, women, and environmental issues have moved to "the front of the bus" ahead of issues facing poor black Americans.
“You never hear any talk about the conditions confronting poor blacks and poor people in general,” Woodson says.
Woodson’s views seemed out of place until he took issue with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for their criticism of George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, while failing to speak on the murder of Chris Lane in Oklahoma. He called them "moral traitors,"
“We should pray for the families of these people just as we do the family of Trayvon Martin,” Woodson says. “We should not wait for a white face before we get outraged. Evil is evil, whether it wears a white face or not. I’m sorry to be the skunk at the garden party, but I think if Dr. King were alive today, he would step on some of these sacred issues.”
Woodson received a standing ovation for his speech.
Is anyone surprised by the response of the GOP? Isn’t Woodson endorsing the concept of post-race? Woodson’s rhetoric exposes the difficulty of discussing race while assuming a post-race culture. The presupposition of post-race is easily refuted by the claims made by those advocating for its usage.
Woodson argues that black issues are placed on the backburner and then challenges others who have placed them on the forefront. He attacks those fighting for the rights of other groups while questioning the moral integrity of those engaged in dialogue to keep people focused on the needs and concerns of black people.
Woodson isn’t alone in communicating an inconsistent message. It’s all the result of wishing for and craving the fulfillment of that dream. We all want it.
As much as I want it, I’m still waiting for the dream