King’s dream debated

Panel members at the 3rd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. panel discussion said although the standard of life for blacks has greatly improved, the economic and educational opportunities are still substandard in comparison to the average white American.

Hosted by the African American Honors Student Association on Tuesday in the Honors College, the panel discussion featured students and professors who discussed whether King’s goals expressed in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech have been achieved.

UH assistant professor of political science and African American studies in The Honors College Christine LeVeaux said the election of President Obama pointed to increasing racial equality.

‘You can be whatever you want, baby,’ LeVeaux said. ‘The check has been cashed, making the American dream possible for anyone. The dream has been realized because of King’s speech in 1963. This is the starting point.’

The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, states that ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Retired military general and panel member Harvey Augustine said Jefferson’s words were meant for all U.S. citizens ‘It’s not just for African Americans but for us all,’ Augustine said.

Communication senior and panel member Ronnie Turner said more progress needed to be made in terms of blacks’ pursuit of happiness in the form of economic advantage and opportunity.

Turner cited facts from Dalton Conley’s book Being Black, Living in the Red. In 1865, at the end of the Civil War, blacks owned 0.5 percent of the total wealth in the U.S. By 1990, blacks owned 1 percent of the total wealth.

‘Dr. King’s dream called for full equality, not just gaining the civil rights, but gaining a piece of the American pie,’ Turner said. ‘We’ve been shut out of that pie for so many decades.’

The panel agreed that although King’s dream of change is slowly progressing, it cannot be fully realized unless it becomes a priority for all races.

‘It’s what we all have to do,’ associate history professor Linda Reed said. ‘Dr. King’s dream is slow to see in effect in our lifetime.’

UH alumnus Okechukwu Ofili agreed that achieving racial equality is a joint effort.

‘It doesn’t really matter about the individual,’ Ofili said. ‘It’s about the community. It is about everyone in the community bringing up the people.’

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