Editorial: King’s dreams and reality
Martin Luther Kingís ěI Have a Dreamî speech echoes this week as the country observes the holiday held in his honor. But King was not strictly a dreamer. He was an astute observer of human behavior who knew it would take more than the passage of time to right the wrongs of segregationist America ó wrongs codified into law in the Jim Crow era and ingrained in attitudes long after the laws changed.
ěMore and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will,î King wrote from jail in Birmingham, Ala.
And the people of good will were hardly without blame. King continued:
ěWe will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.î
Change does not come easily. ěTraditionî can lend dignity to actions and attitudes that should have been left in the past. .
What can we do today, though, to keep human progress running forward? What would it take to bring full equality in the workplace, for example? How can we convince a child that he has the right and opportunity to be whatever he wants when what he sees day in and day out seems to prove otherwise? Yes, Barack Obama is president. But what about family members and neighbors ó what opportunities have they had?
ěWe must use time creatively,î King wrote, ěin the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.î
The policies and laws changed. But dignity is not fully realized. Yet.