Reasons for dreaming
Martin Luther King Jr.’s heart did not only beat for dreams, but lived for them. As a leader of the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta he demonstrated his passion for a collective’s dream. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference played a major part in the civil rights march on Washington, D.C., in 1963 and in notable antidiscrimination and voter-registration efforts in Albany, Georgia, and Birmingham and Selma, Alabama, in the early 1960s—campaigns that spurred passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Encyclopedia Britannica). On 28 August 1963, the march gathered 200,000 demonstrators fighting for the jobs and freedom to which their nation’s Constitution entitled them. The Stanford’s King encyclopedia says that “It demonstrated to the entire nation the gap between the tenets of American democracy and the everyday experience of black Americans, was successful in pressuring the Kennedy administration to commit to passing federal civil rights legislation.” It was during this event that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. This speech reflects in many ways the philosophy and methods of Martin Luther King Jr. in the process of achieving a closer step towards a more just and free nation.
A brief study of Martin Luther King’s vision and mission in the “I have a Dream” speech may allow us to link King’s fight with contemporary battles for equality. Such as the homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual community’s reality in many countries where their civil rights are not recognized, so they are not treated as equal members to the society to which they belong because of discrimination.
Discrimination is the act of treating someone differently because of a prejudice. A prejudice is the mental conception of an individual or a group towards a determinate group of persons and its individuals. The word itself “pre-judice”, expresses that discrimination requires the discriminator to judge the discriminated one before having evidence to prove his judgment, to discriminate is to act based on determinations and conceptions made previous to knowledge. That is why discrimination involves treating someone with a negative attitude because of a generalization of certain characteristics of a group and implying that every member of the group has those characteristics and has to be treated a certain way because of them. The construction of that conception and the adjudication of general characteristics to the group is itself a way a discrimination, and is the seed to the unfair treatment that discrimination generates. I believe that the description of discrimination as “unfair treatment” by many dictionaries is adequate and right because generalization is not only unfair but also biased, irrational and a contradiction in a democracy.
Daniel Goleman and Anita Wolfolk both have written about discrimination, how it works and its devastating emotional results. The neurological evidence presented by Goleman, and the psychological point of view of Wolfolk, are the building blocks of my argument about discrimination’s biased and false nature. Also, the Constitution of the United States and its historical purpose makes more than clear how anti-democratical discrimination is when reflected, accepted and enforced by public policies. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech completes the essence of this essay because after understanding with the evidence presented that discrimination must not be accepted, we must search for ways to fight it, and King’s way is more than amazing, it revealed to be effective.
Firstly, the fight for justice itself was a reclamation of the promises contained on the nation’s Constitution and was protected by the United States Bill of Rights. The third article of the Bill of Rights (1791) states that:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The eleventh article says:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
I think that the authors of the Constitution and of the Bill of Rights redacted both documents in such an open and simple way because their experience with tyranny an inequality as colonies enabled them to understand that freedom and equality is a never ending process in which a society gets closer to its founding ideals with time and changes.
Martin Luther King begins his speech referring to another important document in the history of the United States of America: the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by the president Abraham Lincoln as a military strategy to end the Civil War. Initially this war was about preventing and stopping secession between North and South States and preserving the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation stated that slaves in those states or parts of states still in rebellion as of January 1, 1863, would be declared free. The Our Documents initiative states that: “with this Proclamation he hoped to inspire all blacks and slaves in the Confederacy in particular, to support the Union cause and to keep England and France from giving political recognition and military aid to the Confederacy.” But most importantly the Emancipation Proclamation turned the Civil War into a fight for freedom. That is why by the end of the war almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.
This document is considered a “beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves” by King. A fragment of this document makes clear King’s reasons to believe so. This document did not only declared the freedom of millions of slaves in some states, it also: expresses that this people deserved reasonable wages, that their freedom is Constitutional and, in some way, makes reference to those people citizenship as Americans because they would now be accepted in the military forces. On Lincoln’s words:
“And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”
Martin Luther King also makes reference to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in order to justify the fight for freedom. The Constitution stated ideals that were still not completely fulfilled. People and change brought and are to bring those ideals to fulfillment if they truly believe in them. King is basing his movement in the words of the founding fathers, he understands that it is the citizens responsibility to cash that check promised to them, even when not initially given to them. This action is not unconstitutional; the Constitution is celebrated by acting upon its ideals, not by enforcing our personal and biased believes and turning them into public policies. Further more, the Constitution is about the ideals that created a nation, no even about the personal opinions of the man that wrote it, and is those ideals, what we are responsible to attach importance to developing.