What happened to the Dream?
This month, the nation will celebrate the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (“MLK, Jr.”) federal holiday. Dr. King, as we know is the only black American on which this national honor has been bestowed. This selfless man of brilliance could have chosen to deny his life’s purpose and pursue money, status, and celebrity. Thankfully, he accepted the one designed for him. Now, 45 years after this martyr shared his DREAM on the Washington Mall, no one can rationally question the DREAM is far from realization. An optimist, I adopted MLK, Jr.’s DREAM. Then in August of 2015, while visiting a museum’s gift shop, I saw a copy of a painting, titled “What happened to the dream?” by an artist, who simply identified himself as “CH.” A close up view revealed the words, “i have a dream” at the top of the painting. Below the words, the painting depicts a black image of Dr. King in its forefront looking down on a large, barely visible crowd in the backdrop. Across the painting is shattered glass. The painting struck me hard, literally taking the breath out of my body. At that moment, I could no longer hold on to hope that my children would be judged “by the content of their character – not the color of their skin.” With a framed copy of the painting in hand, I carried it from office-to-office before leaving paid employment. It set directly above my desk as a constant reminder that much work awaits.
Just over one decade after Dr. King’s slaying on April 4, 1968, the DREAM began to shatter. Some progress, it’s true, occurred in August 1964, with the Civil Rights Act’s passage and in 1965, with the Voting Rights Act’s enactment. However, within less than fifteen years of MLK, Jr.’s murder, powerful forces set out to stop this trend in its tracks. Illustrative of this is the public education system’s closing schools that were to be integrated and providing vouchers to Caucasian families to send their children to private or parochial schools to avoid compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s (“Court’s”) decision in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education. A further illustration is the Court’s Bakki v. Regents of University of California’s decision in June 1978. In this precedent-setting decision which led to the abolishment of affirmative action in higher education, the Court concluded that Alan Bakke, a white, male applicant to the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, was a “victim” of racial discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Bakke claimed that less qualified applicants of color, particularly Black ones, had taken a seat that he should have occupied. Sound familiar? Reversing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling favoring the academic institution, the Court found that the admissions decision constituted “reverse discrimination.” Leap forward merely thirty years later to November 2008 and the election of Barack Hussein Obama, an exceptionally credentialed, brilliant man of African and Caucasian ancestry, who shortly afterwards brought America back from the brink of economic collapse. President Obama carried himself with utmost dignity and pride in his Blackness. Evidently this and his other accomplishments while in office were too much. No longer did too many Americans feel the need to hide their race-based hate.
We need each other, a fact that should be evident to everyone in America, as the country and the world face escalating calamities. No one, including children, is immune. Leave the World Behind, a Netflix movie executive produced by former President Obama and his equally amazing lady, Michelle, is a must-see film especially for those with their heads in the sand, “hoping for fulfillment of Dr. King’s DREAM. I encourage Colorado residents to attend the upcoming NAACP Boulder branch’s MLK celebratory and Theater’s social justice events on January 14 and 15, 2024. Additionally, this encouragement extends to Sister-to-Sister, Inc.’s January 28th hybrid gathering at Cora Faye’s Café where, over delicious soul food and engaging conversation, we will discuss attendees’ impression of MLK, Jr.’s Dream’s realization and experienced trauma. Those who attending any of the events will understand from where my encouragement emanates. All are welcome.