Race in America, 50 Years after the Dream

In some ways, America has exceeded King's visions. In others, however, his to-do list remains far from finished

The things Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. mused about in that speech 50 years ago were the stuff of fantasy in 1963. You needed more than just the "audacity of hope" to imagine that states "sweltering with the heat of oppression" could be "transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice." So how far have we come since that hot August day when thousands flocked to Washington?

In some ways the America of today has even exceeded what he allowed himself to envision. Fifty years after King delivered his speech, another black man will stand at the Lincoln memorial to address the masses... this time standing at a podium embellished with a presidential seal.

But how does one assess the current state of King's dream without also examining the items on that wish list that have yet to be realized? There is little doubt that, had he lived, King today would be concerned about prison rates, murder rates, wars and persistent racial inequality — the so-called opportunity gap. That specific list of demands for the March for Jobs and Freedom also suggests that King would be particularly upset about the growing wealth gap.

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