As we celebrate another MLK Day, we are still struggling with who we are, and grappling with what this nation represents. I beg to ask, have we come any closer to Dr. King’s Dream, or has the dream, like Dr. King stated, “turned into a nightmare”?
I want to start by saying that while The Dream is attainable, we wildly understated the extent of change and the amount of effort needed most times. While appreciative of the small victories, King did not pat America on the back for basic common sense decency. He once said, “We have also 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.”
This “cooling off” is what we see too often in the American story. Whether it was after Reconstruction, The Civil Rights Movement, or even recently, the George Floyd protests, this nation has only shown a limited appetite for substantial change. Most only want to see Black people survive, not thrive. Often, it seems as if America, particularly White America, seeks to only absolve itself of guilt, thinking its job is complete. Many only seek to exonerate themselves, not to restore the broken. We see the same behavior that causes politicians to go from “reform police” to “refund the police” within a year, seeking to whet a political appetite over protecting the harmed.
While our nation has made progress, we still have police brutality. Inequality still plagues us. We still have voter suppression. We’re still inclined to spend more on our military each year while the richest nation that has ever existed has homeless people on the street. Our endearment to being comfortable prevents us from ensuring our fellow citizens’ basic rights, the American promise.
I refrained from calling it the “American Dream” because for it to be fulfilled, nightmares must be inflicted on the marginalized. The American Dream is too self-centered, too individualistic, and too focused on a singular plight more than the collective. That is why Dr. King’s Dream is a just goal, seeking to uplift the community more than just ourselves. The plight of our fellow brothers and sisters should matter to us more than it does.
The torch and the struggle’s burden have now been passed to our generation. The fight for freedom must and will continue. There is no way to escape our responsibility to ensure the futures of those who we will never meet. The time is and will always be NOW.
To answer my original question, no, we have not reached Dr. King’s dream. There is no reason that the most powerful nation on Earth can’t ensure its citizen’s protection from police brutality, a just justice system, a livable income, or freedom from violence. This is our mission now: to fight the good fight and ensure our own place in the human struggle for love.