(Update I, below)
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech (August 28, 1963) has come to be recognized as one of the most important and vital speeches delivered about the question of civil (and human) rights and and their relationship to society and the individual. The speech, clocking in at seventeen minutes, was delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr., and was a rallying cry for the necessity of racial equality; and an impassioned and rational plea to seek the end of discrimination. Addressing the crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial King’s speech was the culminating point of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and came to be seen as a important and defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.
Delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters, the end of the speech was more ad hoc, and may be where some of the fervent energy of the speech draws from, as King departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration on the theme of “I have a dream”, possibly prompted by Mahalia Jackson‘s cry, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”
Martin L. King Jr.’s important and enlightening speech , “Remain Awake During a Great Revolution”
The end of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” (read the full text of the speech at this link), delivered the 31st of March, 1968 at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
Institutional Racism, Sexism, and the similar suppressions of the just civil society is one of the strongest and most common methods oppressors have for retaining power and control.
King tackles the question of institutional oppression and the economic justice head on, but : “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Update I (because of my perusing King speeches the last few days)
At the tenth anniversary meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, August 1967, King addressed the audience with a speech wondering ”Where Do We Go from Here,”, thinking of the future directions that human rights should take in the face of monetary and institutional prejudice. His conclusions:
….I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about “Where do we go from here?” that we must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, “Why are there forty million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised.
….A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will “thingify” them and make them things. And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and it will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together.
Have we fulfilled the dream (this is merely rhetorical as we all know the answer here)? United for a Fair Economy released this study ” State of the Dream 2011: AUSTERITY FOR WHOM?” (pdf) on January 14, 2011. Some of their conclusions:
• The unemployment rate is 15.8 percent for Blacks, 13 percent for Latinos and 8.5 percent for Whites (p. 20).
• While Blacks gained five cents to each White dollar of median family income from 1947 to 1977, they gained only one cent in the 32 years since (p. 8).
• Blacks earn 57 cents and Latinos earn 59 cents to each dollar of White median family income. The corresponding figures for median household income are 60 cents and 70 cents (p.12).
• Blacks hold 10 cents and Latinos hold 12 cents of net wealth for every dollar of net wealth Whites hold (p. 15).
• Blacks are 2.7 times as likely as Whites to have zero or negative net worth. Latinos are two times as likely as Whites to have zero or negative net worth (p. 15).
• The two-year tax cut package passed in December will cost $850 billion over two years. Forty percent of the tax cuts will go to the top five percent of income earners. Twenty-five percent will go to the top one percent (p. 14).
• Whites are three times more likely than Blacks and 4.6 times more likely than Latinos to have incomes of $250,000 or more, and thus Whites receive a disproportionate benefit from the top-tier income tax cuts (p. 15).
• Special tax breaks for investment income flow overwhelmingly to Whites. Blacks earn 13 cents and Latinos earn eight cents to each dollar of White dividend income. Blacks have 12 cents and Latinos have 10 cents of unrealized capital gains to each dollar that Whites have (p. 17).
• In the professional and business services sector, Black males earn only 57 cents to each dollar of White male earnings. By comparison, Black males earn 80 cents to each dollar of White male earnings in the public administration sector. This trend of greater parity is also true for Black females, Latino males and females and White females (p. 24).
• Without Social Security, 53 percent of older Blacks and 49 percent of older Latinos would be in poverty, compared to an elderly poverty rate of 20 percent for both Blacks and Latinos with Social Security (p. 18).
This assault is against all members of society who have neither means nor connections to influence the directions the society which they populate. The minority communities are those with even less access to this realm where decisions are made for the entire social body. And wondering about the way the a “representative” (for a certain section of the population) governments continually asks for patience in moving to a more equatible society for all of its members, King doesn’t hold back and makes this obvious case in his “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” (pdf):
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.