Celebrating Obama: But Martin Luther King’s Dream Still Deferred

Celebrating Obama: But Martin Luther King's Dream Still Deferred
Barack Obama

AFRICANGLOBE – On Sunday, January 20th at 12PM, America’s 44th President, Barack Obama will be sworn in for his second term.

The public celebration of his inauguration will take place on Monday, January 21st which is also the legal public holiday celebrating the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many people see the public swearing in of the first president who is African American taking place on the same day we celebrate the life of one of the greatest Americans as another invaluable symbol; a breakthrough for America, a double helix.

Some see the reelection of President Obama as the realization of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Dream”, while others see the inauguration as an incredible irony; an incongruity between the literal and the implied meaning of the events.

The symbolic significance of the reelection of President Obama cannot be understated. It took this country 219 years to elect its first African-American president — George Washington was elected in 1789.

In spite of America’s schizophrenic perspective on “race” –race is really an artificial construct.

As I reflect upon the historic election of Senator Obama, my thoughts go to the Constitution and three specific provisions:

Article 1, Section 2, the Three Fifths Compromise; Article 1, Section 9 which allowed for the importation of slaves for 21 years after the Constitution was ratified; Article 4, Section, the Fugitive Slave Clause that allowed for escaped slaves to be returned to slaveholders.

These constitutional provisions come to mind since they were the legal and conceptual foundations of the oppression that Africans in America, and later African-Americans, have been subjected to since the founding of this nation.

The election and re-election of President Obama does represent how far African Americans have come. The Obama administration has done great work. The President is able to claim a number of legislative successes during its first term. For example, the Obama Administration passed or supported: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010; Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and, appointed the first Black Attorney General, Eric Holder and appointed first Latina, Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

These are all significant actions and should be recognized as such.

Some see President Obama as the fulfillment of Dr. King’s “Dream.”

But not so fast: Never confuse a down payment with the balance being paid in full. The “Dream” was never about electing an African-American president. The Dream was about freedom, justice and equality for the least of us so that the true meaning of the American creed could be enjoyed by all of us.

Martin Luther King’s Other Words

As Dr. King said, “And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.”

We must always remember that before Dr. King made reference to “The Dream” he said, “But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free… the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination…the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity…the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.”

Hence, the irony of America publicly swearing in its first president who is African American for his second term on the legal public holiday celebrating the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is that the nightmarish conditions that led to articulation of The Dream still exist in America today.

The Dream cannot be fulfilled when a candidate for president has to run a deracialized campaign in order to make the masses comfortable with the obvious aesthetic.

The second inauguration of President Obama does not negate the reality of Driving While Black.  It does not erase the fact that unemployment in America is 7.8% but over 17% for African Americans.

We cannot ignore the fact that African Americans make up 13% of the population and 53% of those incarcerated.