‘I Have a Dream’ at 50: What are the civil rights issues today?
August 28, 2013
By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer
Fifty years ago this week, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood before a crowd of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and delivered one of the most iconic speeches in the history of the country. When Dr. King uttered, “I have a dream,” his words gave tangible goals for the country to strive toward: social and economic equality for all.
The speech was part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a massive rally to show support for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act under debate in Congress.
Additionally the organizers believed that job and economic equality was the greatest issue confronting the civil rights movement, and they outlined a set of goals to achieve.
Some objectives were met, such as passage of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. Now, it is difficult for state and local governments to pass discriminatory laws, and employers and housing agencies must legally refrain from discriminatory practices. Schools are integrated, and generally, college student bodies have become a multicultural and diverse mix of students.
Passage of meaningful civil rights legislation
• Immediate elimination of school segregation
- A program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed
- A federal law prohibiting discrimination in the job hiring process
- A minimum wage of $2 an hour
- Cuts to federal funding for any program or organization that tolerates discrimination
- Enforcement of the 14th Amendment by reducing congressional representation from states that discriminate against minority voters
- Broadening of the Fair Labor Standards to include marginalized work sectors that often employ large numbers of minorities but do not fall under the law
- Authority for the attorney general to intervene when constitutional rights are violated
But not all the goals have been achieved.
Economic equality remains elusive. Women and minorities make anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent less than their white male counterparts for the same position, according to the National Women’s Law Center. This economic disparity adds up over time, and even though equal pay laws have been passed, a pay gap still exists in workplaces.
At a rally four days before the anniversary of the March on Washington, speakers at the National Mall evoked the memory of Dr. King and declared that the civil rights movement is not over. Racial and gender equality, in addition to equal pay and civil rights for the LGBT community, were highlighted as issues that still needed to be achieved in order for the nation to become an equitable land of opportunity.
Although there are many challenges, Martin Luther King III, Dr. King’s eldest son, made the point that the nation has come a long way. “I know that Daddy is smiling from above,” King said. “I can almost hear my father humming the anthem of the movement, ‘People get ready, there’s a train comin’.'’
What do you think?
How has the civil rights movement has affected your life? What issues does the nation need to address to achieve economic and social equity for all? How should the country address the economic disparities? Are there other social injustices that the nation faces 50 years after the March on Washington? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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