The work of Martin Luther King Jr. as an activist and an American leader of the Civil Rights Movement is an iconic example of the progress of civil rights in the U.S. during the mid twentieth century.
King’s charisma and ability to engage citizens and politicians in negotiations about inherent human rights made him one of the greatest black leaders in modern American history, promoting a humanistic concept of the American Dream.
A Baptist minister, King contributed in fighting against racial discrimination and segregation through peaceful means and civil disobedience. He opened the way to visualize new definitions of American values applicable to all citizens in an ideal society that has no bounds in terms of race, sex, gender, language or socioeconomic conditions.
Although he faced many obstacles such as jail and even assassination attempts and ultimately assassination, because of his so-called radical perspective of society, he succeeded by guiding a non-violent fight to secure basic human rights and equality for African-Americans. He also focused his efforts on eliminating poverty and opposed the Vietnam War. However, King’s greatest accomplishment was the declared war against racial discrimination in the United States.
Ironically the U.S., regarded as a land of justice, freedom and equal opportunity, enriched itself upon the labor of minorities. King experienced these social issues and was determined to pave the way towards social justice and equality. He organized boycotts, marches, speeches and more to pursue his humanistic ideals.
“I have a dream that my four children will 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,” King said in one of his famous speeches.
Certainly, King had a dream. It was not the “American Dream” as we know it today, which is based on an economic value promoted by a dominant political ideology. King’s dream was the real American Dream based on universal human rights: tangible justice, freedom, equity and equal opportunity regardless of color, race, religion, sex or socioeconomic conditions.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live up the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’” King said.
King did not want to accept that there was no hope for minorities. He “refused to believe that there were insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunities of this nation.”
King appealed to the original meaning and purpose of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black as well as white, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said King.
King indicated that such promise was not universal in his times yet. Black people were left out of a system that hindered better conditions of living by denying inalienable rights to non-white citizens and other minorities.
Likewise, today many minorities and people who have been left out of our socioeconomic resources fight for rights that they deserve as human beings, and long for better conditions and opportunities.
For example, the National Center for Education Statistics found that in high school the dropout rate was lower for whites in 2011, but higher for blacks and Hispanics.
Social researchers, Jeffrey Jordan and Genti Kostandini, from the University of Georgia found that factors such as gender, family economic problems and the presence of biological parents at home appear to be crucial determinants of graduation.
Additionally, dropouts are affected by the unequal distribution of economic resources available in our educational system. Thus, urban and rural areas do not have enough funds to operate for the benefit of minority students.
In an effort to motivate change, African-Americans, Latinos, LGBT and undocumented aliens organize events, marches and speeches to educate the community and encourage it to join them in pursuing social justice.
These minorities deserve a place in a society that should be free of discrimination and racism. They believe that King’s dream is possible.
They have a dream that their children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their race, sex, gender, language or socioeconomic conditions, but by the content of their character.
King’s political philosophy helped lead our nation in pursuing the real American Dream that is yet to be available to all of its citizens, but there is still a lot of work to do regarding social justice in our nation. King’s life and legacy speak of the American Dream we really want.