National Review Online asked a panel of distinguished commenters to assess where Dr. King’s dream stands, 50 years after his historic speech.
Fifty years ago, Dr. King provided America with a provocative vision, in which our republic would become a place of greater political and economic liberty for African Americans. However, in 2013, when we examine the black underclass in cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., we can see how the politics of progressivism singlehandedly turned King’s dream into a nightmare.
For example, low-income black families were obliterated by welfare programs that emerged out of the Johnson administration’s failed “War on Poverty.” Welfare destroyed the incentives for men to marry and care for their children, remain employed, and save money for the long term. Today, as a result of progressivist social visions, only about 26 percent of black women marry, compared with 51 percent for white women. In 1950, 64 percent of African American women married, compared with 67 percent for white women. Without flourishing families, low-income blacks were doomed to government dependency and cyclical poverty.
Dr. King and I share the same dream: African Americans should experience more liberty instead of less. However, if America wants to see King’s dream come to life in the 21st century, we will need to abandon progressivism’s redesign of the family, the mythology that governments are best at running economies, and the failed notion that increasing public funding of failing public schools helps children.
Black America needs freedom from the surrogate decision-making of progressive government bureaucrats who write policies that undermine moral virtues and treat people differently according to the color of their skin. Only if that freedom is established can the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness be fulfilled for all in America, regardless of race or class.
— Anthony B. Bradley is an associate professor of theology and ethics at The King’s College and a research fellow at the Acton Institute.
Today, Martin Luther King Jr. might reflect as follows:
My fellow Americans, since I spoke to you last, we have seen America become increasingly a multiracial and multiethnic country. Over one in four Americans now say they are something other than simply “white.” Blacks are no longer the largest minority group: Latinos are.
And blacks and whites are the slowest growing populations. Since the last census, the Latino population has grown by 43 percent, and the Asian population has grown by 43 percent as well. What’s more, the number of Americans who identify themselves as belonging to “two or more races” has grown by 32 percent.
In such a nation, the principle of E pluribus unum becomes critical in two ways — one having to do with the color of our skin, and the other having to do with the content of our character.
First, we cannot have a legal regime in which government agencies, our great universities, and our other institutions sort people according to skin color and what country their ancestors came from, and treat some better and others worse depending on which silly little box they check.
Second, the character we as fellow citizens have in common must be cultivated and celebrated more than our “diversity.”
Character is cultivated first and foremost by family. As a Negro and a Christian minister, it saddens me to see that today more than 7 out of 10 African Americans are born out of wedlock, along with more than 6 out of 10 Native Americans, and more than 5 out of 10 Hispanics — versus fewer than 3 out of 10 whites and fewer than 2 out of 10 Asians and Pacific Islanders. That is too high for all groups, but who can fail to see the connection between these numbers and how each group is doing?
It breaks my heart to see so many children being raised without a father.
— Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity.