“I have a dream…” – celebrating 50 years of “the greatest demonstration of freedom in the USA”

MLK50 years ago today Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream…” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. More than 250.000 people had assembled on the National Mall for the historic “March on Washington,” which Rev. King called “the greatest demonstration of freedom in the USA.” The Civil Rights movement put an end to segregation and the breakdown of racial barriers. Today, African-Americans constitute the largest minority group in the US Congress and the election of Barack Obama as first African-American President in 2009 was taken as a sign that the United States had overcome its racist past.

Reality looks a bit harsher. The Washington Post titles “fifty years after the March on Washington, the economic gap between blacks and whites persists” and writes “when it comes to household income and wealth, the gaps between blacks and whites have widened. The poverty rate for blacks, for instance, continues to be about three times that of whites” (Washington Post). The unemployment rate among African-Americans is 7% higher than the national rate. The United States has not completely shaken off the legacy of discrimination – an absurdity, considering the demographic change: The Census Bureau predicts that in five years over half of all kids under 5 years of age will belong to racial minorities and by 2043 the percentage of non-Hispanic whites will have dropped below 50%.  About time to internalize the words of Rev. King that “their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”

Picture Source: flickr.com, UIC Digital Collections