Long story short — there is still a lot of work to be done. On this day, we celebrate what would’ve been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 89th birthday — and nearly 50 years since his untimely passing. A staple in not only the Black community, but in America’s journey towards unity period, MLK is a without a doubt a legend, and a pioneer in peace.
However, although King’s work has long lived past his own life, there is still work to be done to ensure that his loss turns into a lesson, and that his pain doesn’t go in vain. Check out the nine ways in which we are living (and still not living) the American Dream, according to King.
1. We had a Black President and a Black First Family
The unforgettable, forever rememberable #44! Former POTUS Barack Obama shifted the culture and American dream back in 2008 when he became the country’s first Black President of the United States. Even more powerful in presentation than being the President, was Obama’s presence as a family man. Obama’s unshakeable and extremely admirable family presence was straight out of The Cosby Show. Granted, most Presidents have always been married either before or during their time of presidency (only two presidents in the history of American government were single when elected — with one marrying during his term).
However, Obama’s constant adoration, acknowledgement and credit to Michelle for making him the man he was, painted a positive portrait of the Black family home and structure. Not to mention, having all daughters (Sasha and Malia Obama), and showing his love and support to them as well, was an important vision for Black women to take in. The reality is — Obama was one man supported by three, strong, beautiful, Black ladies. And he never failed to remind us of that!
2. The Reactivation of Black Activism and the “Woke” Culture
It’s safe to say that when it comes to seeing matters in “Black and White,” some of the new school got a little lost in seeing “grey” during their quest for equality. Basically, somewhere between the cease in activism of the Black Panther party in 1982, up to 2013, those considered anywhere from millennials to generation z (those born between 1980 to 1999), were so pressed for peace, that they were blinded to their own injustice. That is, until the acquittal of the
low-life racist man who killed unarmed, Black teen Trayvon Martin. With the exception of hip hop’s political rap peak in the 90’s (thanks NWA!), 17-year-old Martin’s death at the hands of then 30-year-old George Zimmerman was the onslaught of ‘Black Lives Matter,’ — a movement intended to bring awareness to the injustice of Black people, and their untimely deaths and/or lack of justice at the hands of racists and/or the government . Mr. King would certainly approve.
3. Social Media Activism is Really a Thing
#HashtagMLK. We’ve come a long way since the days of making a Myspace, just for “my space.” One thing about “Social Media Activism,” is that it may not always be physically proactive, but one can’t deny that it’s certainly contagious. Going viral is the new goal when it comes to bringing awareness and light to certain issues — and “viral-bility,” is a major key in creating visibility. These days, the start of justice is at the click of one’s fingertips — literally.
4. Black Roles in Hollywood are Lit — (From Victims and Villains to Victors and Winning!)
During a time where all we see is Black folks as victims or villains (see #2) it’s a must that we see some positive small screen and big screen programming. Self-proclaimed EBONY cover man and “Biopic King,” Chadwick Boseman (who has played everyone from Thurgood Marshall to Jackie Robinson), will officially star as The Black Panther, in what will arguably be one of Marvel’s biggest superhero franchise movies to date (aside from Boseman’s character “Black Panther’s” role in Captain America: Civil War being well received, the movie The Black Panther, has already had the highest pre-sale ticket sale in Marvel history — and doesn’t come out for another month.)
On top of that, Luke Cage also became a huge, Black superhero staple back in 2016. The best part? Both films also feature strong, Black female leads. Take that and the likes of Shonda Rhimes’ Olivia Pope with Kerry Washington, and ‘HTGAWM’ with Viola Davis, Black people are lit on TV. During a time where Black people are constantly seeing the deaths of their peers go viral (with little to no repercussion), seeing more Black heroes and heroines is restoring the feeling of power in people of color.
5. Interracial Love is No Longer Seen (as) Taboo
“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” — Martin Luther King, Jr… Just so we’re clear, MLK was married to a beautiful Black queen by the name of Coretta Scott-King and together, they were not only #BlackLoveGoals, but love goals in general. Similar to Barack Obama and Michelle, King was very intentional in placing his queen and his family at the forefront of his activism. He was not only a man — he was a family man.
However, in the of equality and unity, King often preached on rising above racial tension and separation — and we believe this included friendships and relationships. With that said, in the past 50 years, after the Loving trial, interracial relationships in the nation and marriages have increased by nearly 600% — going from 3% of the US population to over 17%. Now, does this take away from #BlackLove goals? Absolutely not. But sometimes the best relationships start from friendships. And although we can not co-sign for King’s testimony to interracial love, we can certainly testify to his dreams for racial equality.
6. Rape Culture is Grossly Still A Thing (but we’re working on it)
First thing’s first — shout out to Tarana Burke for creating the #MeToo movement and getting the conversation on “casual rape” culture back into the spotlight (disgusted that such an ideology even exists.) The movement, created by Burke, was intended to bring awareness to all the women who “too,” have been a victim of sexual abuse. After the campaign resurfaced and went viral on social media, not only did Burke become TIME’s Person of the Year for 2017, but many Hollywood hotshots have been called out for sexual abuse and/or many have come forward as victims, both women and men, including actor Terry Crews. As or recently, Oprah herself delivered a powerful #MeToo-esque / #TimesUp speech at the 2018 Golden Globes, proving that the fight is not over.
However, on the bittersweet side of things, the fact that rape culture has been normalized for this long is absolutely repulsive. The fact that Crews, a dominate, Black, male actor who has always taken on “stronger” roles, got his genitals touched, in front of his wife, by a White Hollywood agent, while at a Hollywood party… proves that there is still plenty work to be done in reversing the objectification of Black people.
7. Oh, and Intersectional Feminism is Real
“Intersectional Feminism,” is the idea that feminism was created with the agenda to protect and serve White woman, not all women. The fight for women’s rights did not kick off until the mid-19th century— with it peaking about a hundred years later in the 60’s. However, due to the injustice of Black people being normalized, it is often believed (and proved), that feminism was originated, and often conceptualized and practiced, to protect White women only. Of course Black women joined the fight later on, but there is still plenty of work that needs to be done to reverse out the notion that feminism is singular, in terms of race. Women’s rights applies to all women, period. And we’re sure both Coretta — and Martin – would agree!
8. “-Isms” (Classims, Colorsim, Elitsm) are Sadly Still a Thing in Our Community
“Light ni**a, dark ni**a, faux ni**a, real ni**a, Rich ni**a, poor ni**a, house ni**a, field ni**a — Still ni**a!” — Jay-Z “Story of O.J.” Somehow, in the 21st century, we’ve managed to still have the slave mentality of separating ourselves based on a number of “-isms” – be it elitism, classism, or the ever so classic, colorism. Since the early days of slavery, it has been intentional to keep Black folks “separated” by all means, in order to avoid a revolt and conquer. By separating the husband from his wife, or emasculating a Black, male slave in front of his family, or placing mulattos (lighter colored Black people) to work inside the home while those more melanin-rich worked the hot fields — it would make Black people avoid being seen as “one.” The divisive strategy was intentional. With Black being the dominant race in more ways than one, slave owners wanted to keep Black folks brainwashed as to avoid their untimely uprising and ultimate revolt.
While we have come a long way since the days of slavery, we still have centuries worth of reverse-brainwashing to rid off, and there is plenty work to be done. Sometimes our community still finds ways to be divisive — even when it comes to shared skin tones, people will still find ways to separate race vs. ethnicity (e.g. proud Black Latinas fighting to prove they are Black and Latina, since race and nationality are two different things). It’s ashame. Our ancestors proved in the past that we are stronger united… so why can’t we work to be stronger together to build a better future?
9. Some of Ya’ll Still Sleep Though… (Wake Up.. Get Out!)
I mean… this is pretty explanatory. If you’re “Still sleep in 2018,” it’s time to stop being a joke and #GETWOKE! #StopSettlingForBeingGoodWhenYouWereBornToBeGREAT