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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Guest Commentary

MLK would be proud of change in society

On Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. made famous the words “I have a dream” in his speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for civil rights.

King saw 1963 as a beginning, but in the year 2010 we still count many accomplishments as new beginnings.

For example, the 2008 election of Barack Obama as the first U.S. president of African ancestry gives us all a fresh start.

African-American historian and scholar John Hope Franklin called the election of Obama to the presidency the most historically significant American election of all time.

However, we must be reminded that Obama’s election could not have occurred without the political doors that were opened by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Along with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act brought to the political table numerous African-American leaders, resulting in the creation of the Congressional Black Caucus — African-American leaders in numerous states who have given a voice to the working class, women and the poor of diverse persuasions.

If King could see America under Obama’s leadership, he would probably attribute such a feat to the activism of the leaders before and of his time.

He would understand that their sacrifices to the movement have not been in vain, and he would not be surprised by Obama’s election, because King understood the hope of the future when he said, “One day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.”

King would be pleased that Obama’s worldview is leading us in the direction of peace despite the steady aggression of terrorists.

He certainly would be pleased that another African-American had received the Nobel Peace Prize.

I believe that if King could see us now, he would be happy about the success of African-American college graduates.

He would seek out UH, which has one of the most culturally diverse student bodies in the U.S., to ask why is it that so many other college campuses do not seem to achieve a similarly diverse student population.

King would be pleased that a Hispanic woman, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, now serves on the Supreme Court.

He would remind us that he was serious when he dreamed that Americans “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by (the) content of their character.”

King would be most pleased that an African-American made such an accomplishment possible.

However, King would probably not be pleased by the high number of African-Americans who are incarcerated.

The fact that a greater number of African-American males are imprisoned than are attending college would bring him despair.

King would also be discouraged by the high number of African-American males who are unemployed during this economic recession.

King had two daughters and a wife whom he dearly loved, and he would be pleased that Coretta Scott King kept his dream alive until her death in 2006.

On women’s issues, he would be disappointed that American women have not yet achieved equal pay.

Perhaps he would wonder why there are such a large number of households in some of our communities that are headed by women, especially since their pay rate is disproportionate to that of men.

As a person concerned for all Americans, King, if he could see us now, would not like it that approximately 50 percent of African-American youth cannot find employment, even during the summer months when they are not in school.

If King could see us now, he would find more things to be excited and pleased about than disappointed in.

Ultimately, since he was a man of very strong faith, King would still see so much hope in the progress that the U.S. has made in its stride to be a democracy for its entire people.

His faith and hope would push for greater things to come, because there is always room for improvement.

As the words to the old negro spiritual “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” hinted, “Every round goes higher, higher.”

Linda Reed is an associate professor of American history and may be reached at [email protected]

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