In 2016, what has happened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream?

In 2016, what has happened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream?
by Dr. Christopher C. Bell Jr.
March 6, 2016

Purpose: My message to you today is:

To inform you of the progress, I have observed in America with regard to America’s efforts to move toward the fruition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s  “I have a dream” speech, and,

To prompt your introspection concerning your own race-related impulses, and your hopes regarding America’s, racial dilemmas, and,

To inspire you to consciously do whatever you can during your normal day to day engagements that might promote Dr. King’s dream among those with whom you associate.

Background:

It has been over a half-century (51) years (Aug 1963) since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  Much has changed since then and much has not changed.  In his dream Dr. King’s described six visions.  Today, we’ll only have time to discuss his first three visions.  I call this message, Part I.  Hopefully, I will be able in another message, a Part 2, to discuss his other three visions.

Dr. King’s first three visions were:

1.  That one day this nation (America) will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

2. That one day in Georgia, the sons of former slave and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of Brotherhood

3. That one day the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice

The Message:

Before we can analyze what has happened in America regarding race relations since Dr. King spoke, we must understand several key things that were going on in America at that time.

First, Remember that America in 1963 was a white male dominated and controlled country that could be rightfully called a white supremacy culture.  Nothing of political or social importance could change or happen in America until and unless America’s rich, white male elites, who controlled America’s political, financial, and social establishments, allowed such changes to take place.  And for your information, the same situations still exist today.

Second, remember that America in 1963 was a country whose cultural, social, business, judicial, and penal systems promoted and imposed a white superiority syndrome conditioning on its people and that this conditioning instilled a sense of white racial superiority (WSS) in white people and a sense of inadequacy and black racial inferiority on black people.

Now you ask, what is a white superiority syndrome?

“A White superiority syndrome is a series of behaviors or actions that reflect a state of mind or a belief system that says that white people as a group are inherently intellectually, genetically, and culturally better human beings than black people and thus white people are deserving of the societal leadership roles and of “white privilege.”

This white superiority syndrome (WSS) is acquired consciously and unconsciously via social and cultural conditioning.  As a result simply of living in America and being exposed to its cultural, social, and educational features and teachings a person can acquire a WSS.  When living in America, under normal circumstances, and if there is no intervention, a person will develop feelings of white racial superiority if he is white or feelings of inadequacy and self-hate if he is black.   And for your information, this white superiority syndrome conditioning is still going strong in America

Note:  Unless a person receives some kind of intervention (teachings, experiences, sensitivity training, personal contacts, etc.) that makes him aware of the WSS conditioning surrounding him, he is almost certain to acquire some degree of WSS conditioning.  This is true for both Black and White Americans.  However, there are ways to minimize and disrupt this conditioning, but that’s a topic for another message.

Third: Remember that in 1963 in America, everybody of importance in helping to guide American policy and culture did not accept Dr. King’s dream as a desired goal for America.  In other words, there were many “Shakers and Makers” who didn’t and never will buy into Dr. King’s vision.  And again, for your information, There are people today of this same mind-set.

Fourth:  Long before 1963, blacks and whites at the personal inter-racial “one on one” relationship levels have had numerous success stories. For ages, many such relationships have been, are, and can be trusting, respectful, and loving.

Today, in 2016, black and white “one on one” inter-racial relationships are still able to be warm, respectful and loving. These “one on one” inter-racial relationships have been a part of the State of Nature long before Negro slavery began in America.  And so, such relationships cannot be attributed to Dr. King’s dream, but to other forces and urges that results from shared openness and attraction.

Let’s consider Dr. King’s first vision:

1.  That one day this nation (America) will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Here, Dr. King was talking to the “establishments” that represented all Americans; the federal government: The Executive Branch and the Congress of the United States.

Federal Executive Branch

Before Dr. King spoke in 1963, the Federal Executive System in 1963 was insensitive to the extent that black people were not given the same rights and privileges as white people.  After Dr. King spoke, the Federal Executive system, led by President Lyndon Johnson, became more attentive to the Civil Rights struggle and initiated several race related laws that allowed America to be more in step with its Creed.  These laws included the Voting Rights Act, the Equal Employment Act, and The Public Accommodation Law.  And yes, these laws can be attributed in part to the humanizing effects of MLK’s dream on many white people.  These laws showed progress

Now, in 2016, within the departments of the Executive branch there have been significant changes in personnel policies and practices, and organizational changes that have come about due to the influence of Dr. King’s dream scenario.  I sense that the Executive branch of the US government in 2016 is working continuously to enforce civil right laws/regulations.  Most of these changes began as a result of the work and humanness of many white people who were inspired by Dr. King’s dream. That again shows progress!

2. U.S. Congress:  In 1963, a U.S. Congress of mostly rich white men worked with a white president and legislated just and fair laws that lead to improving the federal government’s ability to protect the civil rights and public treatment black citizens. Since the 1960’s, the U.S. Congress has taken little time in dealing with matters to help improve the freedom aspirations of America’s black citizens.

Today in the Congress: I sense a U.S. Congress that is festering in anxiety and anger toward many programs that would enhance the freedom hopes of black people.  This anxiety and anger in my opinion is due primarily to a fear by many white Congressmen of the “Browning of America.”

This fear began when in 2008 when the American people elected a black man to be President of the United States of America.  To many rich, white men, the idea and the reality of a black man as President was an unanticipated, cosmic-size, cultural-shock, and it represented a loss of their white prestige and dignity.  Now, as result of these anxieties, the U.S. Congress has resisted every move the Black president and his administration have made to advance race relations beyond the minimum required to maintain law order.  This is NOT progress!

Now what about Dr. King’s; visions 2 and 3:

2. That one day in Georgia, the sons of former slave and sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of Brotherhood, and,

3. That one day the state of Mississippi, a state weltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

What I say about one of these two states, with regards to race relations will also apply to the other.

In these states, in 1963,and in many other states, Jim Crow Laws existed all over the south. “White Only” and “Colored Only” signs were still visible at many public water fountains, bus stations, and other public accommodations in these states and also in other states.  If the signs were not visible the general policy of the establishment was to segregate its clientele according to race in terms of types of services provided and the location of such services. Jim Crow signs have been discarded and public accommodations are now available for black people in most places in America.  Again this is progress!

Unchanged Negative Realities:                                    Today, there are several of realities that indicate that we have made little or no progress in certain areas of race relations.  What are these realities?

1. White Hate Groups:  Between 1963 and 2016, there has been a steep rise in the number of white hate groups in America.  The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in the spring of 2012 reported a steep rise in white hate groups in America over the past several years.  Members of these groups generally do not accept the notion that black people should be allowed to enjoy the same citizenship rights and privileges as they do. Many of these group’s members are willing to intimidate and commit violence to ensure white domination of blacks in all areas of American life. This report shows that a large number of Americans have stepped away from Dr. King’s dream scenario.

2. White racism is still here, but it now masquerades as many other things or in new configurations.  Now what is racism?

Racism in America is the socio-political, cultural and economic discrimination of black Americans by white Americans, based on the belief by white people that they (white people) are intellectually, genetically, and culturally superior to black people.

“Racism” in America has acquired modern attire and sophisticated language in expressing itself.  This is expressly true among our legislators at both the state and national levels.  Racism is acted out and cloaked in slogans, and words such as “policy differences”, “State Rights”, “taking back our country”, “Tea Partyers”, “the Birthers”, “The Religious Right”, “Congressional obstruction”, Making America Great Again”, etc.   And this language is not a sign of progress.

3.  American Business and Financial Institutions:  Within the vast numbers of white non-governmental organizations, corporations, and institutions, I sense there has been little movement toward Dr. King’s dream scenario. This is because most of these organizations are designed to protect and serve not just “white privilege,” but the “money and wealth privilege” of their occupants.

Although many of these organizations may respond to government mandates calling for equal employment opportunities, many of them have separate employment recruiting systems leading to their “plum pudding” vacancies that are never publicly advertised.  This means that many black people will never know about these job vacancies. MLK’s dream scenario has made very little progress in most of these organizations, and I see no way that this will change in the near future. This is because in these types of organizations there is no compelling reason to do so.  There is very little progress to report in these corporations and non-governmental institutions.

Conclusion:

I have given you a mixed report on the current functioning and kinetic influence of Dr. King’s dream in today’s (2016) world.  Now, what should this limited presentation mean to 2016 Unitarians Universalists, Jesus-Followers, Humanists, and Freethinkers, like you?

1. These facts and comparisons should affect your thinking.  You should now be prompted toward introspection and review of your own race-related sensitivities.  This means you should now be awakening to your own tendency toward feeling superiority to black people if you white, or to your tendency of feeling inadequacy or inferiority to white people if you are black.  You should know that your feelings were programmed in you by our American culture.  And knowing this, now you have to decide whether you wish to retain these feelings and pass them on to others (children, family, and friends) or do you wish to drop these feelings and see the world anew with a mind unclouded by your White Superiority Syndrome conditioning.

2. These facts and comparisons should affect you actions, in that you may have gained the confidence to promote Dr. King’s vision (within your own small sphere of activities.  This doesn’t mean you need to go out as a crusader with the intent to change the world.  But it does mean that you should see yourself as a persuader; a persuader in promoting racial respect among those persons with whom you may fellowship.

3.  The facts and comparisons presented here will allow you to gain information that will bring greater HOPE to you about the possibility that Dr. King’s dream can be realized, and that the dream is not a script for a wild-goose chase in search of an unbelievable ideal that was presented to a troubled world by a maladjusted dreamer.

4.  You must remember: that the inter-racial relationships of mankind at the “one-on-one” personal level have, can, and do find good-will, warmth, respectfulness, love, fellowship, brother-hood, and sister-hood.  These types of inter-racial, “one-on-one” relationships existed long before human beings recorded human history.

Today our (those of us here) challenge is to raise the harmony and goodwill of sisterhood or brotherhood or partnerships that we know exists and works at the personal inter-racial “one on one” relationships level to a harmony and good-will at the inter-racial “one to group” relationship level, and then to raise that harmony and good-will to the “group to group” inter-racial relationship level.  This upward staging of black and white inter-racial relationships is not an easy task, but I’ll provide you with a few hints that might help this process when we speak again on this subject in Part 2,

Amen

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