America Must Wake Up
by Nicole R., Portage, MI Thirty-five years ago the great civil rights' leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave the well known speech, "I Have a Dream." He spoke of the day blacks and whites would live equally and peacefully and love each other as brothers and sisters. Today we still have not completely fulfilled Dr. King's simple dream of equality for blacks.
I say this for many reasons. One is the fact that the overwhelming majority of African-Americans still live in poverty. Thirty-five years ago, Dr. King stated, "But one hundred years later [after black slaves have been freed] ... the Negro still lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity." And blacks are still, for the most part, the same poverty-stricken race. Although rising above poverty is not impossible, it can be very difficult. It is especially difficult when policies such as affirmative action are repealed. If blacks could receive more education, they could get better-paying jobs and satisfy Dr. King's dream. But to do this they need the government's help.
Another reason Dr. King's dream for equality has not yet come true is the simple fact that racism still exists, and always will. Dr. King hoped that one day people "... will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Yet even today it is impossible to wipe out racism completely. There are always going to be stubborn, ignorant people who insist on judging individuals based on the color of their skin. Although we can try to teach them, it is up to them whether they choose to accept our teachings. If they choose to stick to their racist beliefs after we have educated them, then there is nothing more we can do.
African-Americans are unequal to Caucasians in many meaningful ways. There is still a sort of "glass ceiling." Sometimes blacks are denied higher-level jobs due to their race. If a black man and a white man with the same qualifications applied for the same job in a predominantly white neighborhood, if it wasn't for affirmative action, chances are the white man would be hired. This is because, deep down, there still exist beliefs about blacks which have divided our country for so long.
In conclusion, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream has not come true. If it ever is to happenn, the people of America must wake up. We must realize we cannot sincerely be the nation described in the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation unless blacks are equal. African-Americans cannot be equal if those who oppressed them for so long are still economically and perhaps socially above most of them. America must wake up and realize this. Although we have come a long way, there is still a long way to go in the fight for equality.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.