This is a repost of an article I wrote for Red, Brown and Blue.
When a colleague recently asked me, as an African American male, what I thought about Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s dream, I told him I couldn’t answer that question without an essay of a response. The significance of that dream is so tremendous, and the effects so wide-ranging, I honestly don’t think it would be fair to respond, “Oh, it’s important.” An answer like that would fail to capture the magnitude of that dream, and how I feel it has affected my life and the lives of so many others. So, with that said, consider this my answer…
What do I think of King’s dream? One thing is for certain: I think it is very worthy of celebration. His dedication to civil rights, his charismatic leadership, and unwavering energy helped ignite one of the largest social movements in human history. However that dream was not his alone, but rather the culmination of many like-minded individuals who wanted to move towards a world free of racial oppression. Dr. King was not the first person to have a dream of Black kids and White kids playing in the same playgrounds together – learning in the same class rooms together – experiencing life together. No, there were many people who shared in that dream a sense of hope and the idea that we had transcended the ideology that race was the determinant factor of social mobility, academic attainment, and intellectual ability. In that dream, there was a message that we were ready to step forward – together. That dream was then, and remains today, an inspiration for us to reach our potential as a collective group of people.
With any powerful message there needs to be a powerful messenger. Without a capable person to transmit the message, much of its significance is lost. In this case, King was definitely a worthy and ideal candidate for this challenge. The dream may have not been his alone, but he had the rare ability to deliver an extremely well articulated vision of the future and a thorough knowledge of the trends that would later set the stage for a critical social movement to take place. Rosa Parks was not the first person that refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus. No, that distinction belongs to Irene Morgan. Why then do we tend to give Rosa Parks credit for igniting the Montgomery Boycott?
Ms. Morgan, albeit a courageous and strong woman, was not the proper image for the movement. At the time she refused her seat she was an unmarried mother of two children, resisted with physical force, and did not have most pristine reputation among the people in her community. Ms. Parks, on the other hand, was older, more respected, and the secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. Also, Parks’ resistance was orchestrated as part of a tactical strategy. Given the sensitive state of affairs regarding civil issues and the legal strategy the NAACP was employing to resist oppression, they couldn’t afford to feed the media with any more fodder to battle the movement than already existed. Although Irene Morgan won a court case with her defiance, the NAACP chose Parks because opponents would be less able to undermine the movement based on character flaws.
It is my opinion, however, that, in addition to honoring King’s legacy and the dream of the Civil Rights movement, we need to continue pressing forward by forging our own dreams. I think that if he could, Dr. King would encourage us to keep dreaming, adapting them for the challenges that are relevant to the present conditions. Many of the dreams of his time have yet to come to fruition, but great progress has been made in several areas. The problem, I feel, is that the dream and its effects were so monumental, that we have lost some of our own desire and willingness to develop our own dreams. King’s dream was a dream for the ages; one that encompassed the struggle that transcended race, ethnicity, age and other differences to be embraced by so many.
So, what do I think about King’s dream? I think that dream was important then, and remains important today. I think he was definitely the right person to deliver the message. However, I don’t think it exempts us from having our own dreams. In the wake of issues such as diminishing energy reserves to support global demands and a flawed education system that is not preparing our children for the future of highly skilled labor demands, along with acknowledging the old issues such as immigration and terrorism, I think we have plenty to dream about. Martin Luther King, Junior had a great dream, one that has stood the test of time, but I too have a dream. Do you?
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Maine.
Michael Maine is dedicated to global communication, collaboration, and cooperation. Originally planning on utilizing his problem solving and strategic strengths in the corporate sector, his eyes were opened and life changed after taking his first Sociology class at Southwestern University, where he graduated with a bachelor in Business and minors in both Sociology and Communications.
So, what do you think? What other issues are we facing today? How far have we come? What solutions do you suggest?