This article was originally posted on another website, In The Black 2020. I wrote it around the time of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial unveiling on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The effort (led by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity) to erect a monument in Dr. King’s memory was driven by the desire to preserve his legacy and ideals. At the time, I believed the effort was a noble one. However, I also felt that “The Dream” as so eloquently depicted by Dr. King was a far cry from reality, especially in the Black community. Even today, I still hold fast to my beliefs about “The Dream.” But things can change through productive dialogue and collective action. Check it out and let me know what you think…..
On April 3, 1968, a young, fiery Baptist preacher exclaimed, “I’ve been to the mountaintop!” At the time he was speaking to an audience in a crowded church about the struggles faced by the Black community. More specifically, his speech was highlighting the need for socioeconomic equality in response to the Memphis sanitation worker strike. His mention of the proverbial ‘mountaintop’ alluded to his vision of the future of Blacks in America, a future that he viewed as promising. A little more than forty years after that speech, the Black community seems to still suffer in ways that the young preacher could have never imagined.
It can be argued that since the abolishment of racial segregation, grand strides have been made in delivering socioeconomic equality and justice to minorities across America. This is made clearly evident by the recent election of the first US President with a direct hereditary link to the continent of Africa. The election of President Obama follows a numerous series of ‘firsts’ that Blacks have achieved in the post-segregation era. But despite the progress, the journey is far from complete and many battles are left to be fought.
If one were to take a macroscopic view of the Black community today, it would appear that the journey towards socioeconomic equality is complete. Blacks have been able to penetrate all aspects of American society, leading to the generation of a vast wealth, fame and fortune. They exist as leaders in elite academic institutions, multinational corporations, and all levels of federal government. In the entertainment industry, Blacks have single-handedly defined popular culture with their unique styles and sounds. The Black community’s greatest impact has been felt in the sports industry, where their presence and dominance have become commonplace amongst spectators.
Despite these numerous achievements, a microscopic view of the Black community would truthfully show how much regression has taken place since segregation was outlawed. The statistical data on education, imprisonment and unemployment paints a very bleak picture in relation to the Black community. Blacks maintain the largest percentage of those incarcerated in American prisons. With respect to education, Blacks maintain high dropout rates among students K-12 and are less likely to obtain additional education beyond a high school degree, when compared to Caucasian students. Black also occupy the highest levels of incarceration rates in America. Coupling these facts with the disproportionate rate of Black unemployment can lead to only one conclusion: We are nowhere near the mountaintop!
The young Baptist preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was just memorialized on the National Mall in the nation’s capital. If he were alive today, not only would he be disappointed in the $120 million dollar effigy, he would also be distraught by the current state of the community he and others fought tirelessly for. His vision for the Black community, better known as “The Dream,” has not been realized and instead has become “The Nightmare.”
In order to fulfill “The Dream,” the Black community needs to take a serious look in the mirror. Gone are the days of depending on government to solve the problems facing Blacks. The answer to the community’s troubles can be found within the community itself. The community needs to lead the charge in reversing forty years of regression, and focus on transforming its current state. With the vast amount of wealth and power that the Black elite have in their possession, there is no reason why the community should be dying a very slow death. From politicians, to corporate executives, and even athletes and entertainers, Blacks have amassed billions of dollars since desegregation. If just a small percentage of those funds were reinvested back into the community, the effect would be profound. Hopefully I’ll live to see the day when “The Nightmare” is over and “The Dream” has been fulfilled.