Feature

MLK: Has his dream come true?

Many Americans see the election of President Obama as the fulfillment of King's dream of racial equality.

He had a dream, said Susan Page in USA Today, and now he has a statue. A towering granite likeness of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was unveiled in Washington, D.C., this week, and a recent USA Today/Gallup poll showed that a majority of Americans believe “King’s dream of racial equality has been realized.” While most agree that problems remain—and nearly 50 percent believe that racism will never be fully eradicated—many Americans, both black and white, point to the election of President Obama as the fulfillment of the dream King laid out nearly 50 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The statue is a fitting and proper tribute, said Charles Krauthammer in WashingtonPost.com, to the author of one of the “miracles of our history.”

It is a pretty statue, said John Fountain in the Chicago Sun-Times, and the thought of a black man in the White House would have made King very proud. But in 21st-century “ghetto America,” King’s dream “now more resembles a nightmare.” Failing public schools, “economic degradation,” and a pervasive “absence of hope” are proving even more powerful oppressors of the black community, particularly its young men, than the Jim Crow laws that King helped to overturn. King’s monument stands in tribute to the civil-rights movement, said Colbert King in The Washington Post, but it should also remind us that King had to fight hard, and that “resistance to an integrated society is an ingrained part of U.S. history.”

Race was only part of King’s dream, though, said Leonard Pitts in The Miami Herald. People too easily forget that at the time of his assassination, in 1968, King was “fighting for the right of workers to form a union and for the dignity of the poor,” issues as relevant today as they were 40 years ago. To King, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, justice was “not just a legal or moral question but a matter of economics as well.” In this regard his dream of equality hasn’t begun to come true: The gulf between rich and poor in this country is wider than it ever has been, and it is getting wider. King’s monument in Washington should “challenge our morality, our faith, and our conscience” to strive for more and deeper justice, just as the great man himself did 40 years ago.

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