What happens to a dream deferred?
So I say to you, my friends, that even though we must face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed – we hold these truths to be self -evident, that all men are created equal.
In this nation of “equality,” according to the 1998 U.S. Department of Labor statistics, blacks are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as whites. In 2000, while whites earned an average weekly income of $590, blacks earned $459 and Latinos earned an average of $395. Minorities in our country still make up the majority of the population of those incarcerated and receiving welfare.
Thirty-eight years after Dr. King’s speech, fights for civil liberties have been backlashed with fights against reverse discrimination, gay men and women still lack the ability to create a civil union, and religious mindsets have grown from a difference in opinion to a bloody fight of intolerance.
And so we’ve come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism now is the time to make justice a reality for all God’s children.
Since Dr. King’s speech in 1963, the majority of America’s population has actually become more apathetic, especially with our generation. In 1972, the first year 18-year-olds could vote, 50 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, according to “American Demographics Magazine.” But during the 1996 presidential election, that number had fallen to 32 percent. A national survey by Medill News Service in 1996 showed 73 percent of nonvoters were 18 – 44 years old.
n our generation, most of us have “cooled off.” We are less likely to be activists for a cause. We spend more time criticizing those who do stand up, rather than stand up ourselves. The problems in our society are still evident, yet we choose not to partake in them. We don’t vote because we don’t think anything will change, but we are not willing to make the change ourselves.
And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children – black mean and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Catholics and Protestants – will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last; thank God almighty, we are free at last.’
One man’s dream has been deferred. While the laws of our society have begun to progress in the past 38 years, it is the population as a whole that keeps Dr. King’s speech from becoming a reality. Segregation is no longer mandated by law. Instead, we practice it ourselves – we choose to set ourselves apart from those who are different.
Dr. King dreamed of the day that his children would not “be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It is us who must now do the judging. It is us who must focus on the here and now, rather than stand idly by.
We can no longer put it off.
It is our turn to remember before that dream dries up.
Maria Sanchez-Traynor is a senior majoring in journalism and English.