Forty-six years after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, we are compelled to self evaluate: has the dream been realized? Are we now finally a nation where color and creed truly do not matter when speaking of an individual’s character? Are we even close? Or, did the speech describe a fantasy, a utopia which human nature does not allow to exist.
To answer this question, we first need to answer a pre-requisite question: Can dreams ever become reality? And if so, where does religion play into that role? After all, Dr. King was also known as Reverend King. I submit that King’s extensive background in religious studies fueled, at least in part, his dream of equality of all peoples as the foundation of his movement. However, that being said, I do not believe that subscribing to any form of religion or other spiritual practice is a necessary portion of one’s background to fuel progressive change. You do not have to be religious to want the world to be a better place, but for Dr. King, there is almost no doubt that it played a significant part.
As for dreams becoming reality, is it simply a matter of willing into being, or is it a matter of practicality? One has to ask, is it practical not just to want, but to expect, America to become colorblind? Can we honestly expect past prejudices to completely disappear? I believe we cannot ever hope to completely eradicate prejudice, in large part due to ignorance. Those who are consciously prejudiced are inherently ignorant, no excuses. Dr. King’s struggle was, in large part, to eradicate that very ignorance from American society.
But with some people, no matter how hard you try, no matter if you tell them their house is burning and falling down around them, they refuse to listen. REFUSE. Stubborn ignorance is the greatest of all. Let’s face it, xenophobia and fear of change dominate many lives in this country, because those people allow it to happen. This was at the heart of Dr. King’s message, that ignorance of change and the inherent ignorance of prejudice must be done away with if we are to ever truly reach a higher level of civilization in this country.
Do I believe dreams can be realized? Yes, provided that their practicality is within reasonable bounds. It is reasonable to want to go to the University of Michigan, this dream can be realized, on an individual basis at that. Living in a world without color? Not as long as humans retain their human nature. We are flawed beings, even the most enlightened of us occasionally fall pray to subconscious prejudice, at the very best. The masses tend to classify themselves with their race, forming a major component of their identities. Dr. King’s dream can not be realized in the literal sense, as a country, let alone as a civilization, as we still posses too many flaws as a people. However, Dr. King knew as well as anyone that his dream is really a process, like the ocean of knowledge gradually eroding the rock of ignorance. Every day, the waters wash over the rock and change its face-so is knowledge to ignorance. Human nature in its current form cannot allow Dr. King’s dream to be realized uniformly, but then, its only been 46 years. Perhaps all we need is time.