Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fifty years later, a dream half-fulfilled

In 1963 the March was for jobs and freedom. Today... still jobs. And justice.

Fifty years ago, the goals of the March on Washington were simple: black people came together with enlightened white people to demand equal rights and the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

 But a half-century later, African-Americans have realized only half the dream.

Today, black people are free to move wherever their money can take them. But that right has become almost irrelevant because too many African Americans, black men in particular, can’t find legitimate work that would allow them to feed, clothe and provide for a family.

When you add in the mix the mass incarceration of young black men, urban violence, racial profiling and the dilution of voting-rights laws and affirmative action programs, it is not surprising that it will take two rallies to mark the historic march and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

On one hand, African-Americans have come incredibly far since King delivered his famous speech. On the other, a lot of black people in urban America face some of the same challenges they did when King moved into a dilapidated West Side apartment in the ’60s.

More on that from Charles Blow.

I’m absolutely convinced that enormous steps have been made in race relations. That’s not debatable. Most laws that explicitly codified discrimination have been stricken from the books. Overt, articulated racial animus has become more socially unacceptable. And diversity has become a cause to be championed in many quarters, even if efforts to achieve it have taken some hits of late.

But my worry is that we have hit a ceiling of sorts. As we get closer to a society where explicit bias is virtually eradicated, we no longer have the stomach to deal with the more sinister issues of implicit biases and of structural and systematic racial inequality.

I worry that centuries of majority privilege and minority disenfranchisement are being overlooked in puddle-deep discussions about race and inequality, personal responsibility and societal inhibitors.

I wonder if we, as a society of increasing diversity but also drastic inequality, even agree on what constitutes equality. When we hear that word, do we think of equal opportunity, or equal treatment under the law, or equal outcomes, or some combination of those factors?

And I worry that there is a distinct and ever-more-vocal weariness — and in some cases, outright hostility — about the continued focus on racial equality.

So far we have come, so far we have yet to go.

I want to celebrate our progress, but I’m too disturbed by the setbacks.


NBC News is asking all Americans to share their dreams as the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. Beginning today through Wednesday, everyone is invited to take part in #DreamDay by completing the statement "I have a dream that _________." NBC News is spotlighting the messages across its shows and digital platforms, sharing the dreams of the nation with millions.

The video, photo and text messages can be submitted to NBC News using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine, with the hashtag #DreamDay. A curated collection of the submissions will be featured on “TODAY” and “NBC Nightly News” with thousands of dreams spotlighted on NBC's owned and affiliate stations will also be asking local communities to share their dreams.

No comments: