“But 100 years later the Negro is still not free,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1963’s “I Have A Dream.” King was radical. A peaceful man of God, but radical.
Fifty years ago today, Dr. King delivered the renowned “I Have A Dream” speech during The March on Washington. Part of his dream was that his four children would one day “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Powerful words, no doubt, but it has become a sound bite for a legacy shamefully watered down.
Those afraid of having honest dialogue about racism in 21st century America will point to Dr. King’s dream by boasting it’s a dream fulfilled, all while ignoring his criticism of poverty, racism and war. Media’s attachment to the moral notion of people being judged by who they are opposed to their race allows society to ignore “The Other America” speech on the ills of racism and why he didn’t believe in blacks being told to “pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” The “I Have A Dream” excerpts ingrained in America’s psyche are safe. It’s why you’ll rarely hear or read “…America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds” quoted although it’s from the same speech.
Dr. King’s legacy deserves to be told in full-truths, in all its radicalism. On that day on the nation’s capital in 1963 he said much more than “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty we’re free at last.” From the gate he noted the American Negro was still not free. Fifty years later we commemorate the historic moment of Dr. King’s dream and The March on Washington. And we still have to wonder: Are we free yet? —Bené Viera
Click the arrows above for overlooked quotes from the “I Have A Dream” speech.