Editorial: We have not yet reached the more perfect Union

Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. let us in on his dream.

King’s speech, appropriately delivered

from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, will go down as one of the best

in this country’s

history, ranking along with Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,”

Franklin Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress and John

F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech.

In short, King laid out the case for the discontent of an entire race in America. And while his stirring finale painted his

hopes for this country, King’s opening shamed it.

King spoke of a country founded on the principle that all men are created equal and yet in 1963, 100 years after Lincoln’s

“Emancipation Proclamation,” blacks found themselves still in a segregated nation with a hobbled education system, stunted

economic opportunities and an perverse justice system. To blacks in 1963, Thomas Jefferson’s words in the “Declaration of

Independence” weren’t worth the parchment they were penned on. They were ideals, yes, but galaxies removed from reality.

King knew all to well. He had been jailed for leading peaceful marches. His days had been filled with indignities, his life

had been threatened, his house fire-bombed.

Growing up in the South, King had

endured Jim Crow laws that denied blacks the right to vote and equal

access to hotels, restaurants,

public transportation, movie theaters, bathrooms and water

fountains. The education system that served blacks was indeed separate.

It was anything but equal.

The nation King knew saw Gov. George

Wallace stand in a classroom doorway to symbolically block the

integration of the University

of Alabama. Members of the 82nd Airborne Division parachuted into

Oxford, then convoyed for days around town as a show of

federal force to ensure the integration of Ole Miss.

These lashes of injustice pained King.

Yet, he didn’t strike back. Trained as a Baptist minister and a devotee

of Mahatma

Gandhi’s peaceful activism, his over-arching message reverted back

to one simple, yet powerful theme: love will conquer all.

King’s cup overflowed with optimism. Despite witnessing white-hot anger, frothing hate and his people sentenced to third-class

citizenship, his dream could not be blurred, nor extinguished.

Fifty years later, his dream washes over us all like an endless shower.

Much of what Dr. King dreamed — that

our nation would live out the true meaning that all men are created

equal, that sons

of slaves and sons of slaveowners would sit down at the table of

brotherhood, that his four children would be judged not by

the color of their skin but by the content of their character,

that black and white children would be able to join hands as

sisters and brothers — has come to fruition in living color.

Yet racism, muted and cloaked, still lurks in the hearts and minds of some Americans.

Fifty years after verbalizing his dream, young men and women cannot fathom what King’s brethren endured.

That’s progress.

Fifty years after his revelation, we’re closer to, but have not yet reached the more perfect Union Dr. King and our forefathers

imagined.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.