Published: Mar 02, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 28, 2013 02:20 PM
Editor’s note: Last month we invited readers to tell us what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech means to them today. Rafsan Khan will receive a copy of “I Have a Dream: Paintings by Kadir Nelson” (2012 Random House) for his essay.
Fifty years later, we can reflect on this remarkable man giving a remarkable speech and ask ourselves what if anything has changed and what his speech means today. Where he stood at that time and where we stand today.
Dr. Martin Luther King enjoyed some privileges back then that some people today still don’t enjoy. Before the Civil Rights Movement, he was thrown in jail, but given his circumstances, he was given the right to a fair trial. However, today, how many prisoners in Guantanamo Bay enjoy that right?
Shortly after Dr. King’s speech, four little girls were killed in Birmingham, Ala., and the news instantly spread all over America. However, today, bombs are frequently dropped by drones on innocent women and children in Pakistan. Is that information ever seen on the news?
In the beginning of Dr. King’s speech, he makes the connection between poverty and prosperity. One of today’s main problems is the economic difference between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent. In the middle of the speech, he refers to a “bad check” that America has written its people. Today the government uses that check to fund wars all over the world, reflecting the difference in its priorities and what everyday citizens are concerned about.
The Civil Rights Movement was an accumulation of many organizations standing up for what they believe in and striving toward a common goal. Today there are many movements throughout the world that are going on: the Arab Springs, Occupy Wall Street, the Keystone pipeline movement just to name a few. All reflect a common theme, the needs of human beings, which include food, education and health.
Fifty years later, many people are not free. College students are straddled with six-figure debt. Mexicans travel far and wide for a taste of freedom we take for granted. We speak of environmental friendliness, yet we continue using coal and gas. Many people do not have health care and cannot afford insurance. So, 50 years later, are we really free?
So what does Dr. King’s speech mean for me today?
Today’s dream includes holding hands together, as Dr. King says, “white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics” together with Pakistanis and Indians, Tibetans and Chinese, French and Arabs, Hutu and Tutsi, along with gays, lesbians, atheist, and many, many other people I can’t acknowledge because this essay has a 600-word limit.
Today’s dream includes the day when pollution is no longer seen from the Great Wall of China, when Muslim sisters have the same privilege as their Muslim brothers to safely visit the Pyramids of Egypt, when we walk down Franklin Street and no longer see someone holding a panhandling sign, when we don’t have to spend trillions of dollars on our military budget for our sanity and safeness. The day when we no longer judge people on how they look, whom they love, what color they are or where they are from.
At the end of Dr. King’s speech he states people “have come to realize that that their destiny is tied with our destiny.” That still holds true today. When we come together we should come together in unity, working collectively to solve our problems together. That is what the dream means to me today. Rafsan Khan lives in Chapel Hill.
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