“I have a dream” is a phrase heard by more than 200,000 Americans on August 28, 1963, and since then, Martin Luther King, Jr.Тs “I have a dream” has resonated through millions of heads and thoughts in the world. Eyes search for the reality of his dream, ears search for the freedom bells ringing, hands search for a brotherТs hand, and mouths search for the songs of freedom. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a utopia where the colors of black and white would become so intertwined that shades of gray would appeared. Martin Luther King, Jr. charged the American people to go out and create a perfect place, and many people have tried, but as long as antiquated moral values remain, America will never fully wake up from the nightmare of racism and enter into the dream of equality.
Of course, not all race relations today are a nightmare; Americans have risen above some of their petty prejudices and biases. During the sixties, black people were forced to ride in the back of busses, black people were forced to stay apart from white people, black people were forced to step out of the way of white people, and black people were commonly disrespected and thought of as inferior. Because of segregation, there were different schools, different water fountains, different restaurants, and different housing areas. A black man was not encouraged to elevate in society but instead had the words “you are inferior” constantly beaten into him by the white man. Because of these practices, Civil Rights movements began to take place and people like Martin Luther King, Jr. began speaking out against the injustices toward black people. The Civil Rights movement accomplished several things: in todayТs society segregation is no longer in American law books, blacks are promised as much opportunity as a white man is given, and black men are not told by law specific things than canТt do and places they canТt live. Black people can vote, run for political office, have a job other than being a servant or maid, and are looked upon as citizens of the United States. Black people have achieved freedom from government regulation.
However, even with this freedom, black men and women are still oppressed by white people, which holds America back from realizing KingТs “dream.” Law no longer segregates schools, but there are still separate schools. In Chattanooga, there are several schools that are primarily black, Howard High School and Eastside Elementary, while at other schools, such as McCallie one sees only a few black faces in a sea of white. Churches are the same way: Brainerd Presbyterian Church moved from Brainerd Road because they were not able to reach the black community, and so they gave their church building to Friendship Baptist, a predominantly black church. Housing areas are separated, not by law, but by practice: Martin Luther King Boulevard, Alton Park, 4th Street Courts, and the Harriet TubТs Housing Project are all considered “bad areas” of town because of the majority of black families. Black people have gained freedom by laws, but black people continue to be oppressed by ingrown practices that keep Martin Luther KingТs dream from becoming a reality.
King dreamed that “one day [America] will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: СWe hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equalТ”, but even though some people try to give equality to all races, there are those who still try to make the blacks inferior. My grandmother has always been prejudiced, a fact she will not admit to, and she feels that the black people are the fault of the American nation. When a black family moved into a house next-door to her in East Lake, she moved as quickly as possible because she was sure that “the land value would soon go down.” But Granny is a mild example compared to my neighbor who feels that “those black niggers oughta return to Africa where they belong.” My parents, even though they are not by any means as racist as my grandmother or my neighbor, feel the need to lock the doors of the automobile when passing through the “bad sections” of Chattanooga: I have heard my father say, “those people think they donТt have to follow the law and can do whatever they want.” One time, when a black man jay-walked across Brainerd Road so close that my father almost hit him, I head my father say, “those damn niggers think theyТre invincible.” Such views keep us from, as King puts it, letting “freedom ring from every village and hamlet.”
These views are not only hurting black people, but are hurting the white people too. People are not told to be racist, but are taught to be racist. My grandmother was not told that she was supposed to be racist, but her parents taught her. Since her parents and grandparents acted that way, she inherited their corrupt values, which were later passed on to me. When I was in fifth grade, a new black girl, Shandia, started at St. Nicholas Elementary School. She got a “full ride” through St. Nicholas because her family was on welfare, and at first I was a little jealous that her parents did not have to pay since my parents did. Finally, for no other reason than she was different from me, I started making fun of her and being a bully. I did not know that what I was doing was wrong because I thought that since my grandmother did it, it was what everyone else did, too. Finally my parents taught me that what I was doing was wrong and racist and I apologized to Shandia for being mean, but my grandmotherТs and parentТs values remain in me sometimes today. When I drive down Martin Luther King Boulevard, even in the bright daylight, I canТt help but be fearful and lock the doors of my car. I even hear myself thinking racist things ever so often. Last week, I was downtown and was looking for a parking place; after ten minutes of driving around the block, I found a parallel-parking place open. I pulled up alongside the car in front of the space and put on my blinker. Just then, a woman came to a screeching halt behind me and barely missed my car by only a few centimeters. Later, when telling someone about the incident, I kept referring to the woman as “some black woman.” I had to stop and think for a second. Why did her race matter? Why did I not just refer to her as some idiotic woman? When had black come to mean idiotic in my vocabulary? Another time, it was almost twelve midnight and I was at a gas station trying to pump gas into my car. When I was almost done, a black man pulled up behind me; I could feel myself becoming very tense. After paying and coming back outside to get in my car, the man started walking toward me. I was truly terrified that I was about to be attacked, but instead of even coming close to me, he just needed to get a paper towel out of the window washer dispenser. I couldnТt help but feel stupid: Why was I so scared of this man? I probably would not have felt the same sense of terror if it had been a white man. Even though I have tried very hard to curb any prejudices I have, the thoughts and feelings of my prehistoric ancestors have been passed down into my brain like a ugly spot that mars any of my achievements. I have not wanted to be racist, but I have unintentionally been taught; however much I try to scrub the dark soot out of my brain, the spot remains.
These spots remain on all of society as long as these thoughts and feelings remain in peopleТs minds. King dreamed that “one day [his] four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” But, as long as white people continue their ingrown practices, this will never happen: there are bad opinions of a black and white couple, there has never been a black president, there are very few black students and teachers at McCallie, and there is not a single black family in my neighborhood. Yes, there is equality, but only between black and white Barbie dolls. King tells us to “let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee,” but we fail to reach such a high expectation.