Realizing The Dream

Originally published November 30, 2011

Upon visiting the new Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial in Washington, DC,  I thought about how well Dr. King’s philosophy has been realized in our society almost 50 years after the delivery of his “I have a dream” speech.

Dr. King believed in non-violent advocacy for justice and equality. His work was rooted in faith, opportunity, and freedom. And while Dr. King’s honorable philosophy is a strong model to follow when doing my own advocacy work, overall we have over-romanticized his life and work. We hang onto his goals as if working toward them, but have to address the ongoing debate over whether we have in actuality been moving away from them. The notion that we have in fact brought about a safe, peaceful environment for everyone, regardless of background, is perhaps more absurd than spending $120 million on the memorial itself.

As a country, we simply do not practice non-violence. We are obsessed with war and crime, and that is reflected in our all of our media, TV shows, video games, and music. We justify violence, and desensitize ourselves, in order to obtain power or status.

Advocacy is often not rewarded and it is difficult to introduce new ideas that may actually benefit people, relieving them from poor incomes or housing or other constructed state of oppression. It can be discouraging and even dangerous to speak up about injustice in a peaceful way because it is a method of change that we greatly under-value.

An example of this is the recent video capture of non-violent protestors at UC Davis. Students gathered on their quad to protest tuition increases and social injustice, and police officers pepper sprayed many students, seemingly without second thought.

So many of us are walking the path that Dr. King paved for us, and I will remain hopeful of a day when his memorial is a complete living testament of hard work and maintained peace. I do not discredit our country for its lack of social progress. But there is hypocrisy in using so many resources to construct the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial when as a country we do not display the values of Dr. King’s teachings and practices. Since the memorial is here to stay, we need to do a better job of upholding the goals of a great American man, and make his dream a reality.