Living the dream: We still have a ways to go in our country Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Today, most of us take for granted that people of all races will worship in church together, eat in the same parts of restaurants, and use the same public restrooms.

But that wasn’t true in many parts of our country just 50 years ago. People of color didn’t have the freedom to do many of the things white people did.

Progress in 50 years?

As we observe the 50th anniversary of the famous March on Washington, D.C., on August 28, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on how much progress we’ve made in guaranteeing civil rights for all people who live in our country.

In Wisconsin, I think that the rights of people of all races have been respected better than in some other parts of the country. Our churches, restaurants, and schools have been integrated ever since I can remember.

However, statistics show that non-white people are put in jails and prisons in our state at a higher number than white people. It seems as if minorities have higher rates of unemployment and have a greater chance of living in poverty.

I Have a Dream

Excerpts from speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on August 28, 1963


I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four 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.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

Even though we don’t have overt segregation, it often appears that some areas of our larger cities have subsidized housing and poorer living conditions where higher percentages of non-white residents live.

And the July 13 acquittal of George Zimmerman of murder and manslaughter charges in the death of African-American Trayvon Martin has led many people in our country to discuss the ramifications of this case. Do we still have a stereotype of a black person as someone we fear, as Zimmerman apparently did?

It appears that we have a ways to go in this country in ensuring freedom and rights for every person.

Call for dialogue and non-violence

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington calls people to address poverty, racism, and class inequality, said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity.

The committee, chaired by Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, issued a statement August 13 as the nation prepared to commemorate the event at which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“We join our voices to those who call for and foster continued dialogue and non-violence among people of different races and cultures, and who work tirelessly for the transformative, constructive actions that are always the fruit of such authentic dialogue,” the bishops said.

“We rejoice in the advances that have occurred over the past 50 years, and sadly acknowledge that much today remains to be accomplished. However, we must always view the task that remains from the perspective of the continued call to hope and in the light of faith.”

The bishops cited both Dr. King, who said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope,” and Pope Francis, who in his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, declared that “Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters.”

The bishops urged solidarity to meet the goals of the 1963 march. “We join the call for positive action that seeks to end poverty, increase jobs, eliminate racial and class inequality, ensure voting rights, and that provides fair and just opportunities for all,” they said.

We still have a dream

Many of us still remember the stirring words of Dr. King. We, too, share his dreams for the future.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, D.C., let us recommit ourselves to doing whatever we can to live Dr. King’s dream in our own lives.

Let us avoid racism and discrimination and treat people of all races and cultures with respect as we would treat our own brothers and sisters.

Let us pray to God that our nation will live up to its commitment to be the “land of the free” for everyone who lives here.