It should happen daily, if not at the very least on a yearly basis, but the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s momentous “I Have a Dream” speech should be cause for us as a country and as a civilized people to reflect upon race relations in the United States.
We’re aren’t, unfortunately, the post-racial nation so many hoped or predicted we would be upon the election of our first African-American president. It’s all too obvious five years of a black man in the Oval Office hasn’t totally eradicated almost four centuries-worth of prejudice. In fact, in some corners of this country, that very fact has exacerbated existing racism and rekindled thoughts of the kind which have for some time lay dormant.
One hundred and 50 years ago, we fought a Civil War over a variety of issues that separated those in the North and South, the most notably unctuous being that of slavery. When some folks below the Mason-Dixon line still believe the conflict and the central reason behind it to be just, one has to be either extremely naive, in a state of denial or downright stupid to insist we’ve gotten past the differences in our skin color.
Here in East Providence, we are a bit more fortunate than other areas of our state and nation. Long before the Civil Rights Movement took hold in this country, we lived in a multi-racial community. While we, like just about everyone else, still have a ways to go, our maturation process is a bit farther down the road than many places.
Ultimately, though, we must confront our supposed, perceived and real differences. We must have an open and honest discussion about race in East Providence, in Rhode Island, in the United States and around the globe. We owe that to the legacy of Dr. King in this country as well as the hundreds, nay thousands, tens of thousands and more likely millions of people who have given of themselves to fight racial injustice throughout the course of human history.