A Dream Yet Unfulfilled

Today is the day this year we set aside to remember the civil rights work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I look at the landscape of civil rights today, we truly have come a long way in the 41 years since King's “I Have a Dream” speech. However, Dr. King's vision of a land where people are judged not on the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, has not yet come to fruition. Sure, we have all sorts of “minorities” in leadership positions in various organizations, and many of some of the highest paid individuals in our country, professional athletes, are not white. But, the very fact that we know these such things (and routinely hear them) is proof that, were he still here, I believe Dr. King would tell us that we've gotten it wrong.

Racial quotas, affirmative action, and other similar programs are “race-based” programs, meaning they use race as a major (and, in some cases, the only) factor in determining preferential treatment. Last year, the Supreme Court upheld that the University of Michigan Law School could give points towards admission for people who were not white. Oddly enough, there is one minority that does not get extra points under this system - people of Asian descent. In the strange world we live in, the Supreme Court said this was fair. And, as anyone who has done business with a government contract knows, preference is often given to “minority-owned businesses”, and these contracts often stipulate a percentage of employees that must be non-white.

My biggest problem with these sorts of policies is that they seem to be rooted in a victim mentality, a system set up by the descendants of an oppressed people to oppress the descendants of their once-oppressors. We hear noble phrases like “We're just leveling the playing field” and “We're making up for lost time,” but what is actually happening is a very subtle racism. Minorities are viewed as incapable of making it on their own, so the playing field is actually tilted in their direction. One of the reasons supporters of these sorts of programs cite is the lower level of education that is attained in poorer neighborhoods. But, trying to “balance” the results is attacking the problem from the wrong side. The answer is not feel-good social policies and lip service, while displaying a racist tone that tells minorities that they can't make it on their own.

The only way that Dr. King's dream will be fulfilled is for us as a nation to stop looking at race. Take it off college and work applications (notice it's rarely on resumes today). Take it out of government contracts, school student balancing programs, and other social programs. The only organization that should still care about race is the police, who are responsible for assembling physical descriptions to identify people. Although things are much better for minorities than they were 40 years ago, I believe the time has come (well, really, has long ago come) to eliminate this focus on race. America is the land of opportunity - people of every race, creed, and gender have the opportunity to make a better life for their families. We're long removed from the days of slavery, and we're decades removed from separate water fountains and back-of-the-bus policies.

Let's work together to make this a country where it doesn't matter what sort of racial makeup you have in a classroom - a country where the NAACP doesn't sit and count black actors on prime-time TV - a country where folks don't feel they even need an organization called NAACP - a country where we eliminate racism from our hearts, not just our actions. This is Dr. King's dream, and I believe it can be fulfilled in our lifetime.

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