Beyond the News
Last Wednesday, August 28th 2013, marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King speech in Washington where he said the remarkable quote “I have a dream”, one of most known and respected expression in the West. He continued the phrase by saying: the dream is that his “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”.
Out of 350 speeches that MLK led in 1963, only this specific one is widely mentioned until now; out of 1660 words that he pronounced in that speech, only 4 are still remembered, perhaps because they are still fitting well in our current reality!
Five decades ago Martin Luther King was not only fighting the segregation of Black people in the US, what in fact is the main conquest attributed to him, but also heavily criticizing two major issues: the wild capitalism in America and the war in Vietnam. Because of it, the Christian pastor was called communist!
Last Wednesday, August 28th 2013, American president Barack Obama, the first black US citizen to assume this role, stepped on the same spot that MLK started the “dream” to say that better economic opportunity is “our great unfinished business”. Well, there is a lot of true on that! The capitalism critized by MLK and not fought by Obama has been taking millions around the world to poverty. The consumerism is nowadays the way to inject money in the economy; and while major international companies spread out their sweat shops all over the world, in some cases using slavering to make profit and improve their share market results, the middle class goes out to buy as much as they can and spend the money that they do not even have!
But this is not the only “unfinished business” started by MLK. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in 2008 out of 2.3 million people incarcerated in the US, 1 million of them were Black. The NAACP fact sheet also points out to the fact that “African Americans and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population”.
However, there will be people saying that this is not segregation! It is just how the life is! But despite the social differences and the limited opportunities for Black people (not only in the US, but also globally) there is another scary information on this NAACP document: “5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites“. So Mr. President, you may include colour segregation to your list of unfinished business! The dream is still alive!
It is alive in the heart of several other Martins and their families, such as Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager from Florida who was recently killed by a community security officer that claimed self-defense to walk free from the American courts.
Furthermore, the dream continues alive on several other issues explored by Luther King. US are still making war, for example. Obama promised during his presidential campaign to remove out of Afghanistan all the US troops, a fact that partially happened. Nevertheless, Guantanamo Bay is still operating, Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be unstable territories and the world is not safer and neither more peaceful after the death of Ossama Bin Laden, as it was proclaimed by Obama in May 2011. US went to Vietnam and left bloodshed there. US went to Iraq in the 80’s, lost the war and never managed to well explain that mess. US went again to Iraq after invading Afghanistan in 2001 and now are leaving both countries into pieces. Why should they invade Syria now? If MLK was still alive he would be probably heading himself on the wall in disbelief! How can a president like Obama behave in such way?
Luther King’s speech of freedom and peace in 1963 was transformed into a theater 50 years later by politicians and media! Even his 4 unforgettable words are now own by the private sector, so if you are planning to use “I have a dream”, you might have to pay royalties to some companies, such as EMI publishing. The capitalism that he fought is now using him!
In other words, on Wednesday 28th 1963 MLK stood in front of 250 thousand people in Washington to urge for several social, economical and political changes in the US; and 50 years later Barack Obama, who now could be considered an icon of this speech, sweeps the dust under the rug to say that America needs only to improve jobs and economic growth to get it done. It sounds like that there are no more problems in the world!
Martin Luther King did not live long enough to fight other major complex issues from his generation, such as COINTELPRO, otherwise he would be now hiding himself in a Moscow Airport with the possibility to be sentenced to the death penalty if he ever returns to his homeland. But John Edgar Hoover on the other hand would probably be acclaimed by the current government and the NSA if he was still amongst us.
Hence, the dream is still very alive. And to be honest, it is actually becoming a nightmare!