Part II: What Has Become Of The Dream?

In the first installment of this article, we considered some of the major things that have transpired in the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.  They were all positive and good advances, which have helped to transform our nation and the world.  However, the dream has not yet been completely fulfilled or realized, as we will proceed to illustrate and validate in this article.  There are a few negative realities that African Americans are still wrestling with that indicate that although we have come a long way, we have not yet arrived at the place of which Dr. King spoke.

Ferguson, Cleveland, and Staten Island
Perhaps nothing else gives proof to the fact that Dr. King’s dream has not been fully and truly realized as does the recent events and unrest that was sparked by the killing of three black men by policemen in Ferguson, Missouri; Cleveland, Ohio; and Staten Island, New York.  The aim of considering these tragic and unfortunate incidents is not to give an argument of who was right or wrong.  The diverse public response concerning these incidents clearly reveals that our nation is divided and polarized primarily along racial lines is compelling proof that Dr. King’s dream of unity has yet to be realized.  Like Dr. King, I look forward to the day when everyone will be judged by the content of his or her character and not by the color of his or her skin.  When that day is finally upon us, the incidents that occurred in these cities, which generated such an outcry of protest, will happen infrequently and with less suspicion of unwarranted violence and authoritative abuse.

Employment Disparity
One of the desires that were consistently revealed in Dr. King’s dream and speeches was for blacks and minorities to have employment equality.  He understood that without this being realized, African Americans would never be truly able to be equal and share in the American dream.  The Pew Research Center reports that Black unemployment rate is consistently twice that of Whites.  Drew Desilver, who works for the Pew Research Center writes, “Much has changed for African Americans since the 1963 March on Washington (which, recall, was a march for “Jobs and Freedom”), but one thing hasn’t:  The unemployment rate among Blacks is about double that among Whites, as it has been for most of the past six decades.”  Adding to this dilemma of Black unemployment, William A. Darity, Jr. of Duke University told Salon in 2011 that Blacks are “the last to be hired in a good economy, and when there’s a downturn, they’re the first to be released.”

Racial Disparities in Incarceration
Dr. King who spent some time in jail due to his non-violent activism was aware back then that African Americans were often incarcerated for offenses and charges that Whites were given a wink or warning concerning.  Lady Justice back then wore a blindfold of discrimination and not of equality.  What about today?  Is justice being fairly dispensed to every citizen, regardless of race, creed, or color without bias or bigotry?  The following statistics that were compiled by the criminal justice fact sheet of the NAACP will provide us with the correct answers:

Racial Disparities in Incarceration
-African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population
-African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
-Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population
-According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
-One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime
-1 in 100 African American women are in prison
-Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).

Drug Sentencing Disparities
-About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug
– 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites
-African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.
-African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months). (Sentencing Project)

Contributing Factors
– Inner city crime prompted by social and economic isolation
-Crime/drug arrest rates: African Americans represent 12% of monthly drug users, but comprise 32% of persons arrested for drug possession
Again, we discover that Dr. King’s dream for equality for all Americans has not been fully and truly realized.

Are We Killing the Dream Ourselves?
In this final section, I want to address a question that will perhaps be controversial and distasteful for many African Americans.  This will be especially true for those who either love to shift the blame or refuse to take responsibility for their own lives and destiny.  I have come to believe that we are our own worse enemy and the number one killer of Dr. King’s dream.  This is evidenced by the alarming rate of Black on Black crime, teenage pregnancies, and the continual decline of the Black family, where over seventy percent of children are being reared without a father in the home.  We can cite socioeconomic and racial factors that contribute to our dilemma and these things are undeniable hindrances to our advancement.  However, these things alone do not explain nor justify why too many of our young people have little or no ambition to take advantage of the opportunities that are still available to them. They are without excuse when we consider that their parents and grandparents were able to endure, and in many cases, thrive in the midst of Jim Crow and segregation.  Paraphrasing the words of Dr. King, they were able to hewn out of the mountain of despair a better life for themselves and their children.  
The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, said in one of his songs, “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing; just open up the doors and I’ll get it myself.”  These are prudent and very practical words.  Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement helped to open the door.  Although there yet remain many adversaries, it is time to enter and get what is rightfully ours.  What has become of the dream we may ask?  I believe that it is still alive and needs rekindling and revisiting.

Dreams Are Important
Dreams are important
Because they encourage and inspire
They are indispensable to life
Like fuel is to fire

Dreams are important
Because without dreams, we fail
They are the motivation
To why we ultimately prevail

Dreams are important
Because they give hope for tomorrow
They dispel dark clouds
And break the siege of sorrow
(Original poem by Apostle Michael Goings