By Victoria Vidales | Staff Writer

Martin Luther King Jr.’s social movements towards racial equality are still relevant fifty years after his death. (Courtesy of Time)

On Aug. 28, 1963, American Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech for thousands of people nationwide. As he stood before Washington speaking of the effects of racism and the dream of hope, the possibilities of King’s future in politics seemed unbreakable. He spoke of the long history of violent racism against African Americans and the dreams he had for the future of his nation.

It was a hot summer day in 1963. Thousands were crowded together, steaming with anticipation. He stepped forward. He stood with poise and courage at the podium as all eyes fell on him. His presence was captivating and powerful. The nation drew in a collective breath as he spoke, holding onto every word that left his lips. He spoke of the injustices facing people of color, but he also spoke of his hopes and dreams for all the people of his country.

A respected Baptist preacher, King enforced non-violent forms of protest based on his Christian beliefs. He advocated for people of all races working together to develop a peaceful and equal society, where all persons could have the opportunity to follow their dreams. Under his leadership, the historic “March on Washington” was made into a nationwide event, and the fight for Civil Rights was brought to global attention.

However, on April 4, 1968 King was fatally shot, ending a 13-year career to the Civil Rights Movement. It has been 50 years since King was assassinated, and the impact of his legacy has lived on in the continuous fight for Civil Rights. On that fateful evening, America lost one of its most influential leaders of the 20th century. 

Although much has changed since the 1960s, discrimination and racism still affect people of all backgrounds. Race relations in the U.S. are intensifying once again. Police shootings of unarmed people of color are on the news frequently. According to The Washington Post, 317 people have been shot and killed by police in 2018.

Furthermore, an unstable economy increases people’s fear of losing their jobs. Growing hostilities are leading to the reawakening of violent nativist groups. White supremacy groups among the millennial generation have been on the rise. It does not help the situation that the current president increasingly tweets controversial statements concerning race and encourages blaming specific groups of people for the nation’s problems.

In times of economic and political upheaval, it can be easy to blame someone else for the troubles you have. A person who has no connection to you is the most convenient scapegoat to lessen the blame on yourself. However, blaming other people through posts, voting, and acts of violence is a losing situation for everyone involved. Historically, when racism and discrimination have been tolerated, massive amounts of innocent people have been destroyed. All over the U.S., hate crimes against religious and ethnic minorities have occurred.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is the epitome of what an American is supposed to be. He was someone who valued freedom, equality, and justice and wanted a society where everyone has the ability to succeed. King was an American martyr; he sacrificed his life to make more possibilities for the lives of strangers. He is a role model for people of all walks of life, an example of how we should all want to act around each other.

If King were alive today, would he be happy with the state of the Union? Although no one can ever know what King would have thought or said, his record of activism would show that progress still needs to be made. Without King, the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s would not have had as much success as it did.

The U.S. has come so far in the fight for equality since the 1960s, but many Americans still believe that racism in the U.S. is a big issue. According to a poll by CNN, six in 10 Americans see racism as a large problem in the U.S. It should be a goal of Americans to strive for a time when no one feels that racism exists. People in this country are still not being treated fairly, and it is up to the American people to fix that.

The U.S. is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Americans pride themselves on the possibility of the “American Dream,” where anyone can be anything if they work hard enough. One of the greatest features of the United States of America is its diversity. In no other country in the world could you say that you were related to someone from every part of the world and be proud of it. If Americans embrace this diversity, King’s vision of a beautiful America where anyone can have any opportunity can be fulfilled.

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