Today is the 48th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and to commemorate the occasion, a statue is being dedicated to arguably one of the most important men in recent American history. The statue was unveiled last week in Washington D.C., and it is remarkable because it is the first memorial on the National Mall to honor a man of color and stands alone as the only one not dedicated to a past president or fallen solider. The statue has engendered some criticism for different reasons, but they are primarily petty complaints resulting from differing opinions that are purely subjective.
Some critics claim the Chines artist, Lei Yixin made Dr. King’s likeness appear too Oriental and too forceful looking with his arms folded across his chest. Others complained that Dr. King would be upset that the artist who crafted the statue was from a Communist country. Subjectivity is always a problem for artists, but Dr. King’s son said his father would be proud of the statue and that he is being honored in such high fashion. It is impossible to know exactly what he would think of his memorial or the statue, but a more important question is; what would Dr. King think of America 48 years after he gave his inspiring and hope-filled speech?
There can be little doubt that Dr. King would be proud that America elected an African-American president, or that there are men and women of color serving in Congress. He would also be proud that in many areas of the country, children of all colors attend the same schools and universities as their white counterparts. Even though it took acts of Congress to force white supremacists in Southern states to integrate schools and a Civil Rights Act to guarantee that all Americans enjoy the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, Dr. King would certainly be dismayed at the continuing suppression of minorities regardless of color.
In many Republican-controlled states, voter suppression laws will make it nearly impossible for minority voters to have their voices heard. Obviously, if minorities and the poor predominately voted for Republican candidates, the voter suppression laws would never exist. Dr. King would have condemned as inherently racist the defunding of ACORN that was based on a racist’s fabricated videotape even though investigations proved ACORN was innocent of any malfeasance. ACORN primarily helped minority voters register and cast ballots and receive assistance for a variety of enterprises. Dr. King would also be angered that Andrew Breitbart manipulated taped remarks of Shirley Sherrod to portray her as a racist against white people and led to her dismissal. Those two instances are representative of overt attempts by Republicans to oppress people of color, and although they are despicable, there are troubling signs that Republicans are on a rampage to oppress poor people of color on a much grander scale that would sadden and anger King.
The Affordable Care Act Democrats passed to provide inexpensive healthcare to 30-40 million uninsured Americans would help the working poor and minorities who are fortunate if they can feed and clothe their families, but Republicans and teabaggers violently opposed the law. In fact, even though Republicans promised creating jobs was their highest priority in the 112th Congress, their first order of business was voting to repeal the law. Why? Because Republicans feel that in America, healthcare is a privilege reserved for those who can afford exorbitant premiums and if millions of poor minorities have to suffer sickness and eventual death, then so be it. No doubt, Dr. King’s dream did not include depriving our most vulnerable citizens of the basic right to good health. The Republican cuts to Medicaid are also aimed at poor people of color who use it as a last resort for their children who wallow in poverty through no fault of their own. In fact, Dr. King would be appalled that in the richest country in the world, over 31 million children live in poverty while the GOP hands Americans’ tax dollars over to the wealthy, their corporations, and the oil industry.
All of the Draconian spending cuts Republicans have made over the past seven months have primarily been aimed at the poor. Cutting aid programs for poor mothers who depend on the WIC program for food and healthcare do not affect upper-middle class or rich Americans, and the savings from the cuts are used to fund tax cuts for the wealthy as well as subsidies for the oil industry. In Texas, Governor Rick Perry funneled aid for poor disabled children into the bank accounts of his wealthy friends in an act of Christian charity that would cause his lord and savior Jesus Christ to retch in disgust. Perry is not the only Republican guilty of stealing from poor and minority children, but he is the most visible at the moment. Careful examination of Republican leaders in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey and Indiana would expose more Republican-inspired theft from the poor to feed the rich.
Dr. King may have reason to celebrate the progress people of color have made over the past 48 years, and there has been progress, but there are more reasons for him to be saddened that all Americans are not afforded equal rights and equal opportunities to succeed and prosper. Now that Republicans have begun assailing middle-class Americans, there is finally beginning to be an outcry against their largesse benefiting the wealthy, but it is sad that the middle class was silent until their wealth was threatened before they expressed outrage. Dr. King may have wondered why any decent American could sit silently while the poor and people of color were being deprived basic human rights; the answer is certainly selfishness and greed. There have always been humanitarians in America who worked tirelessly for people of color and the poor, but it took the prospect of losing their wealth for the majority of middle-class Americans to rise up and speak out against conservative’s continued preference for the wealthy.
So today as millions of Americans reflect on Dr. King and the anniversary of his beautiful speech that envisioned all Americans having the same rights and opportunities to succeed and prosper, maybe his words will provoke more Americans to work to make his dream a reality. Because although there is an African-American president and people of color serving in Congress, there are still millions of Americans who barely subsist from day-to-day and conditions are getting worse thanks to Republicans who are more concerned with enriching the wealthy off the backs of the poor.
Dr. King is not here to champion the cause of equality for all Americans, but there are millions of Americans who can advocate for those least able to speak up for themselves. Republicans have abject contempt for all Americans who are not wealthy, but their focus has been primarily to punish poor people by cutting aid they desperately need and suppressing their right to vote to change their lot in life. Instead of reflecting on Dr. King’s speech today, consider what actions to take to make that dream become a reality, because now that Republicans have turned their attention to the middle-class, it is just a matter of time before 95% of Americans join poor people of color being oppressed and treated as second-class citizens. It is a sad commentary, but that is the America Republicans have created and if all Americans had really shared Dr. King’s dream from the beginning, it is possible that we would not find ourselves on the brink of total oligarchy. Dr. King’s dream of an equal America has turned into a nightmare and the fault lies with Republicans and every American who was satisfied that as long as they prospered, poor people of color could continue wallowing in poverty. Dr. King would say; shame on America.