“I have to confess that the dream I once had, at many points, has now turned into a nightmare.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., “Dream to Nightmare Interview”
This year marks the 89th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and as celebrations occur all over the nation many will surround the discussion of his “I Have a Dream” speech and what it signified. The relevancy of King’s Dream is undoubtedly one that has shaped and transformed our nation. His now infamous speech further sparked people to mobilize not just in the streets but within congress and the presidency. However, there is a greater message at the heart of Dr. King’s work. Although he himself articulated core reasons for the urgency around our quest for civil rights in the speech, towards the end of his life, he realized that the narrative being constructed around "his dream" caused the nation to decrease its urgency after we obtained “small wins” through the movement.
These “wins” were raved to be milestones. They were the integration of schools, places of business and restaurants but without true economic equality, our rejoicing then, has become detrimental to our future. His analysis of his dream and our need to constantly push for structural equality began to take place within the few short years before he died. Yet, this discovery or shift within his thinking of white supremacy, racism, oppression and political goals is rarely highlighted. His dream, was a beginning. Through his writing, speeches and interviews between January 1966 - March of 1968 there are important pieces of information to help in understanding the best way for all of us to move forward in pursuit of the realization of his dream no longer unawakened.
The docility of dreaming, often times keeps us in a wishful state, instead of one rooted in revolutionary action. This is partially why Malcolm X often times spoke against the practices of King for he believed King was setting the “negro up to forgive the oppressor and not fight,” further beyond congressional changes. It is 2018 and safe to proclaim that King’s dream isn’t realized. The “content of our character” isn’t a marker by which we are judged. The state of Black & Brown people in America today, finds us being criminalized, brutalized and scrutinized throughout all facets of life.
The effects of oppression and consistent judgement on how we’ve responded to indignities have become so entrenched within our daily lives and overbearing that we’ve internalized the hatred spewed against us. More than anything, Dr. King’s realization of his shortcomings or faults must become integrated into how we approach our problems today. "Shortly before he died Dr. King said, “I fear I may have integrated my people into a burning house.” Let us take time to discover the words of Dr.King that aren’t as televised because the mainstream media, textbooks and professors seldom discuss Dr. King's growth due to its "unpopularity” or ability to make White America feel uncomfortable. It is within the pages created shortly before his murder that we’ll find key blueprints to move forward."
The year of 2018, will be no easier than years we’ve faced in the past. The messages of the civil rights movement are as needed today as they were then and to get us through the year we can seek solace and fuel in King’s words.
I could have created an exhaustive list of speeches and interviews featuring Dr.King, however, I felt it important to highlight the ones which caused me to seek out additional essays, speeches and interviews of King that went beyond “The Dream.”
1. “Dream to a Nightmare” MLK NBC Interview Aired 1968 (The year of King’s death)
2. Martin Luther King The Three Evils of Society August 31, 1967
3. Dr. King - “The Other America” March 14, 1968
4. "What is Your Life’s Blueprint?’ October 26, 1967
5. Mountain Top (Full Speech) April 3, 1968 ( King was murdered the next day )
BONUS: Martin Luther King Talks Running for President, Stokley Carmichael & Racism
Happy MLK Day!