By Isaiah Valcin, Senior
Leader of the Civil Rights Movement, social activist, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, GA. He played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-Americans in the United States.
His most famous speech, “I have a Dream,” outlines the injustices of society. While referring to the Emancipation Proclamation, King insinuates that African Americans are still disenfranchised: “One hundred years later, the Negro still is not free." He HAD a dream. He dreamed for the word “equality” to be reality rather than an empty term.
Three hundred years of slavery, fifty-five years from the day the “I have a Dream” speech was publically presented, nothing has changed for African- Americans. It is still a dream. According to the Center for American Progress, while black people make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned.
The same source reports that African Americans face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, which leads to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. Theses racial disparities have deprive black people of their most basic civil rights. Through mass imprisonment and overrepresentation of black people within the prison system, they have experienced an adverse impact on themselves and their communities from barriers to reintegrating into society to engaging in the democratic process.
As precisely stated by the Sentencing Project Organization, people of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, policed, and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than other races. Racial disparities threaten the black community and disenfranchises thousands by limiting voting rights and denying equal access to employment, housing, public benefits, and education.
However, Dr. King’s efforts has not necessarily gone to waste. Societally speaking, white people have always had the upper hand, but things have changed. In 1964 the poll tax was outlawed, leading to a new law: The Voting Rights Law. This was a new beginning for black people. It simply gave them a voice, as this was one of the principles that King highly emphasized. In 2008, Barack Obama was officially known as the first African-American President. Surely, this was a dignifying moment for black people because it was a result of true resilience.
“Martin Luther King Jr.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 18 Jan. 2018. Web.
23 Jan 2018.
“Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States.” Timeanddate.com, Time and Date.
Web. 23 Jan 2018.
Kerby, Sophia. “The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal
Justice in the United States.” Center for American Progress, 29 May 2015. Web.
23 Jan 2018.
Nellis, Ph.D., Ashley . “The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State
Prisons.” The Sentencing Project, 14 June 2016. Web. 23 Jan 2018.
“Gains and Pains.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association. Web. 23 Jan 2018.