Has King’s Dream Been Fulfilled?

It’s a question worth pondering the day before the first African American is sworn in as President of the United States. Two-thirds of African Americans believe the answer is yes, according to a new CNN poll. That’s double the numbers in a similar poll last March. White Americans aren’t quite as optimistic: Only 46% say the country has fulfilled King’s vision.

It is tough to answer. Obama’s election doesn’t mean matters of race are suddenly “solved.” And it doesn’t mean King’s work would have been finished. King was about more than a dream for racial equality. He campaigned against wars and for economic justice, and for that he was criticized later in life. It’s hard to imagine a man who spoke out against Vietnam and marched for sanitation workers being happy with a war in Iraq and the growing income inequality laid bare by the current economic crisis.

My full thoughts are over at Ablogistan. Even if the dream hasn’t been fulfilled, Obama, like King, has at least given people hope again:

There’s more of a sense than ever that it can be fulfilled. Parents from all races and ethnicities can tell their children that they can grow up to be anything their heart desires, and mean it. From here on out, children won’t see a never-ending string of old white men when they study U.S. presidents in school. People who have grown more and more cynical at the indifference of the Bush administration can feel represented again.

Americans seem to be regaining the sense that our better days are yet ahead. Hope was what King’s dream was all about. And it’s why, whether you think King’s dream has been fulfilled or not, it’s much easier today to believe that it will be someday.

Author: ELYAS BAKHTIARI

2 Comments

  1. I hope younger readers will realize that it is _impossible_ to expect or to Hope for the USA to achieve what was conceived and openly discussed by many, mainly ambitious, some conceited, in the 1960s. It is unrealistic even to expect or to Hope for the USA to match western European democratic socialism (“social democracy”). We'll see some forms of expansion of government intervention into the economy and into society, but it's nothing like what naive kids of all ages imagine and want.

    An example of what was obvious overreach in the 1960s (but which is interesting to me, for various reasons, and they aren't all negative, despite what you may suspect) was something I read about today, by enjoying one of my books from those 1960s on that subject today. (I was reading a book while waiting for work to be done on my vehicle. I read all the time, whenever it's propitious as well as when I simply want to read.) The subject of today's reading, in which I'm interested, is the guaranteed minimum income. No wimpy half-measures like welfare, or blemishes (for many reasons) like the means test, for the people contributing to this book I was reading. It was dated (referring to “cybernation” and anticipating enormous unemployment from the 1960s onward), but fascinating reading, covering the issue of a guaranteed minimum income all the way through the realms of philosophy and even psychology (the contribution in that book of Erich Fromm).

    Also overreach at the time, but given subsequent developments not foreseen by activists in the 1960s, is health care for all. (The book to which I refer earlier, on the guaranteed minimum income, also featured large-scale advocacy of conversion from private the public goods and services, and the adoption of a more collectivist or communitarian mindset and culture as well as economy.) Even now, what you may need to settle for at this time, is an intelligent measure of incrementalism, and even combining this with some reforms that the less mature people can't accept normally. Examples in the health care area are to concentrate on the costlier pre-school-age children when providing health care to all children — replacing an expanded S-CHIP with Medicare for all pre-school-age children of US citizens and legal residents, perhaps, and reducing the scope of Medicare at upper ages temporarily while integrating it with overdue Social Security reforms, by raising the Social Security and Medicare retirement age to the modern seventy or higher. This can be done while attempting also to absorb Medicaid or some Medicaid beficiaries into Medicare (the pre-school-age children, for example).

    I don't “fear” the more ambitious stuff. But I'll scoff or snort at what is obviously impractical or impossible to achieve, even if I learn from it and even consider radical changes for this country that in fact are cheaper (or, say, simpler) than current programs. It's also a great intellectual fascination in the case of the guaranteed minimum income, because it offers the student a reason for engaging in another related subject (depending on your reasoning of what justifies the guaranteed minimum income), which is the study of poverty and how it is defined. It also introduces the student to other related matters such as tax policy.

    Me, I got lucky. After getting to read my 1960s book on the guaranteed minimum income, on my way back here to Detroit I stopped at a book store in Terre Haute (Indiana) and there, on clearance, for just five bucks, I acquired the work by the best-known contemporary author on the subject of income, poverty, and related economics and psychology. This was the book by Layard on happiness, with a portion in the book that shows that at lower levels, increased income does buy more happiness, then ceases to do so beyond a certain point. This, of course, is real-world data in turn for poverty research. That the lower levels show change in happiness with more income is a basis for claiming that the lower levels constitute true deprivation and piece of real-world data for gauging where to aim for a guaranteed minimum income or other forms of assistance as well as better establish and define the poverty level or the minimum for “dignified” existence.

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