A Dream Fulfilled?

3 11 2008

“I have a dream that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”

These are some of the most powerful and well known words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . I’ve seen a lot of T-shirts and pins that have MLK’s picture on them next to the phrase “I have a dream…” and Barack Obama’s picture next to a phrase that says “…that change is gonna come” or “a dream fulfilled” or some other phrase that connects these two prominent individuals. The implication is that Barack Obama’s inevitable ascension to the presidency represents Dr. King’s dream fulfilled. In some ways, I’m compelled to agree with this notion. The fact that United States is 13% Black but Obama is polling around 55-60% of the population shows that there are many non-black voters that are judging Obama on the content of his character. Many voters see Obama like they see any other candidate and there is polling to back up the fact that many Americans are more concerned about the economy or the war then the color of the candidate’s skin. Obviously, it will be a historic election when (not if) he is elected tomorrow. After 43 white Christian presidents, Obama will definitely embody change.

(Disclaimer: I know that the statements that follow will ruffle some feathers. Race is still a touchy subject in this country. It’s been about 150 years since the end of the Civil War and I’d agree with anyone that said that we are still a divided country. Race still matters. I’m sure that the fact that I’m white makes me one of the least qualified individuals to be making any statements about race, however, I feel compelled to do so anyway. I was born and raised in diverse places, have an ethnically diverse group of friends and teach in a a school that is about 95 % black. I leave it to you, the reader, to make your own judgments about my credibility and credentials as commentator on this subject. )

I’ve been a bit disheartened by the blind support that many black voters have towards Obama. What makes me question whether Barack Obama is a “dream fulfilled” is that polling has shown that black voters have consistently polled around 90% in favor of Obama. (A recent Gallup poll from Oct 27-Nov 2 had non-Hispanic black voters favoring Obama 91% to 3% for McCain with the rest split between undecided and third party candidates.). To me, this is proof positive that many black voters are voting for Obama based on the color of his skin, not the content of his character and this is contrary to Dr. King’s dream. I’m sure that black voters are much more diverse in their political preferences then these polls are indicating. Is this really Dr. King’s dream fulfilled? I would argue that, while electing a black man to the presidency is a step in the right direction, we’re not there yet.

I’m not naive. I understand the importance of Obama’s election towards truly unifying our country. I understand how important it is for black Americans, who have been fighting oppression 50 years after the law officially stated that all things should be equal, to have one of their own ascend to highest office in the nation. I’ve seen my 14 year old students get all riled up when someone even implies that anybody by Obama is an option. It’s an important milestone for our country. It just feels like such an empty victory because of this blind support. I can’t read Dr. King’s famous words “they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” and say that tomorrow his dream will be fulfilled.




2 responses

4 11 2008

A presidency is more often won by the best advertiser, speaker, or by the issue at hand (i.e., the economy, war, etc). It’s often a popularity contest or a situation where people vote for the party. How many people who vote are truly educated on the person they are voting for? The race is just another non-issue related factor that people are using this time to decide.

I’m sure some Catholics voted for JFK because he was Catholic.

4 11 2008
Eric Jordan

I also have the sense that for some people, their number one reason for voting for Obama is that he is black, and I have heard a few people say that is why they support him.

Whether his race has hurt him or help him is debatable; my stance is that overall, being interracial (or black, right?) was an already present weight that Obama has very expertly dealt with. Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton all failed, some of them very badly, when they bid for the White House, and Obama has had to speak on where he stands above the roar of racial tensions, the view that he is the “affirmative action” candidate, and the stubborn, dead idea that a black candidate just couldn’t win.

Why I’m excited that Obama is up 207 to 135 right now is that for the first time in any election I have voted in, the candidate who most closely represents my political stance is about to win. In a representative democracy, I have the experience of being represented. At last, THE president is MY president, and it’s cool that he’s black, too.

It is now becoming a thing of the past that it’s a given that the president of the United States would be a White, Christian, Married Male with strong ties to lobbyists and corporate interests. That is not representation.

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