Today is one of the only holidays we have this semester, and I hope everyone is enjoying their time off.
However, I would like to take a moment to talk about what this day stands for.
As you all know, it is Martin Luther King Day, a day we set aside to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a pastor and renown activist during the African- American Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King was best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech, an excerpt of which I will share with you here:
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little 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.
I have a dream today!” (Source)
It has been over 50 years since Dr. King delivered that momentous speech, and much has certainly changed in our country.
But has Dr. King’s dream really been fulfilled?
In 2014, America was shaken by many instances of racial violence and rioting that seem to indicate otherwise, starting with the events in Ferguson, Missouri.
Michael Brown, an 18 year old who was unarmed, was shot 12 times by police officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury trial then decided not to indict Wilson (source). This was further complicated by multiple problems with the trial, such as key witness Sandra McElroy being discredited. McElroy changed her story several times, suffers from mental health problems, is known for making racist comments online, and previously “inserted herself into another case by lying to police” (source). Other problems with the trial include Wilson washing away blood evidence and the police department failing to check Wilson’s gun for fingerprints, despite the fact that his main reason for using deadly force against Brown was that he feared Brown would shoot him with his own gun (source). The grand jury trial was also criticized for being composed of 9 Caucasians and only 3 African-Americans (source) despite Ferguson being composed of over 60% African-Americans (source).
What consequences await Wilson then after this whole affair? He is now likely a millionaire. Multiple private interest groups, including the KKK (source), have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Wilson. Estimates of the total money raised are in the seven figures (source).
And Ferguson was only the tip of the iceberg.
In Ohio, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot at a park by police officers for holding a toy gun (source). The person who called the incident in even informed dispatchers the gun was probably a fake although the dispatchers failed to share this information with officers before they arrived. The officers showed up on the scene to investigate shot Rice within two seconds of arriving (source).
In New York, 43-year-old Eric Garner was strangled to death by police officers while unarmed and out with his family. Garner reportedly said “I can’t breathe” eleven times before collapsing (source). A grand jury also decided to not indict the officer in this case, despite his use of a chokehold, a moved banned by the NYPD, and despite the fact it was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner (source).
These are only a few examples of a multitude of such instances from last year. There are simply too many to list here.
Many of you, particularly in the U23 class section, have indicated you were considering researching racism in America or police brutality/corruption for your first essays; I hope these news stories can be of help to you.
As always, if you are curious about this issue, I encourage you to do your own research and develop your own stance and opinion about it.
However, on this 2015 Martin Luther King Day, I do not feel that Dr. King’s dream has yet been fulfilled.