Free at Last? Where do we go from here? MLK 40 years later
Even though it is my least favorite speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream" is still a powerful thing to listen to. This version is made even more amazing because it is joined by a drum solo by Max Roach (whom I eulogized at the end of last year). Many who listen to the first part of the speech think that kind is calling for tolerance and acceptance in society--moving toward some kind of colorblind society free of racism. They don't often look at the whole speech in which King says that the United States has a debt to pay to black people for injustices and that it will take great changes in our institutions to make freedom ring.
What would MLK think today, some forty years after his murder? I think Pancho McFarland does a good job laying out what King would think about the U.S. today based on the work that he was doing right before he was killed.
King would have opposed the war in Iraq and would oppose our continued occupation. At the end of his life, he said the greateat challenges this country would face would be dealing with racism, militarism, and materialism. He would question the billions of dollars that go every month to support military efforts, while our prison populations increase to the largest in the world (not per capita, but in the world!), and jobs disappear, amid of frenzy of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim fervor. "We will all have to do more with less" as a mantra, heard from institutions of higher education, to public schools, to shop floors, is a symbol of a serious imbalance of our priorities only because it means that there are some who are getting more while some are getting none.