I Have a 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.”

-Martin Luther King, 28th August 1963

We’re in 1960s America. The jubilation is ecstatic. Waves of triumph electrify those once deadened eyes of the segregated race: black Americans. Safety is reassured as the laws that tortured them for centuries are undone. Years of countless campaigning has paid off. It has all been for something. By law, segregation and racially motivated violence has ended. By law.

Revolution doesn’t follow. Racism continues. Discrimination in the workplace continues. The ‘equal but different’ philosophy of the 1800’s Jim Crow Laws continues. A change in law cannot establish a change in lifestyle.The resounding problem is that of unfaltering opinion rooted in centuries of the same narrow-minded, uneducated drivel; opinions concocted by the elite and powerful and fed through society over centuries. Stories and myths about what is ‘right’ and what is apparently ‘wrong’. So the overturning of state-school segregation by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, in no way made it easier for Black Americans to be accepted by their white peers and similarly the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not disparage all racism from the workplace either. Reaching ‘true equality’ is an ongoing battle for the majority of us even in the 21st Century.

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It’s the 26th of February 2012. I was walking home from my local convenience store. I’d visited this place a few times but it was still interesting to look around at the buildings as I walked back to my Dad’s fiancée’s house. My pockets were weighed down with a can of ice tea and some skittles, it was getting a lot darker. I knew my Dad would worry about me, the area wasn’t a particularly good one to be walking around in this late at night, and more than anything I knew he was anticipating the arrival of the skittles. My slow wander turned into a run back to Dad. I didn’t want to worry him. The slamming of a car door nearby made me uneasy. I quickened my pace. I could hear footsteps fastly approaching behind me. I was being followed. I turned abruptly catching the guys nose with my fist. I knew I shouldn’t have wandered back from the store. The guy continued towards me, he must’ve been about 30 years old. He didn’t match the description my Dad gave me of the kids who’d been causing trouble around the retreat. I realised too late that I did. Someone please help me I thought over and over. I tried to force the guy away from me yelling ‘help’ as loudly as I could hoping that someone would hear me. ‘Help’ I shouted, my mouth becoming dry and coarse as the word resonated against the walls, fell against them, reaching no ears. No one came to save me.

Before I knew it a gunshot had been fired. I fell to the ground. -I had been murdered.

No, that’s not my account. But if it was, is there anyway that you would doubt that I had been murdered? Shot to the chest by a 28 year old male, armed only with a can of ice tea and a bag of skittles. Pursued by that male, against police instruction (on calling the police whilst in the car they advised him to remain in there and told him not to pursue the ‘suspicious’ person). Yes I defended myself but since when did a broken nose equal a gunshot? Is it only murder because I’m white? because I’m female? Does race or sex really come into the equation? If I were a 17 year old black male by the name of Trayvon Martin I wasn’t murdered. This was just self defence under the ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law.

“A stand-your-ground law is a type of self defence that gives individuals the right to use reasonable force without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation”

George Zimmerman was acquitted of the charges of second degree murder and manslaughter on the 13th of July 2013 by a jury made up of 5 white, and one black woman. Zimmerman pleaded self defence against a 17 year old black male whom he had racially profiled as ‘suspicious’ and ‘dangerous’. Why 45 years after discrimination based upon race, gender and religion, is a teenager murdered for belonging to a certain race and therefore fitting into a certain narrow-minded stereotype?

Is the loss of a black man’s life not worth punishment?

Since when did being black make someone a threat? When does pursuing and then shooting someone, regardless of being suspicious of them, not account to either murder or manslaughter? When is a gunshot reasonable force against a can of drink and a bag of skittles? How does a teenager running create a ‘dangerous’ situation? What about this teenager arouses suspicion or any essence of danger?

And we ask; what if Trayvon Martin was white? What difference would that have made?

The fact that Trayvon Martin’s race is a factor in all of this is just wrong. Whether Trayvon Martin was murdered or not, is not reliant on whether he was black or white. His life was taken on unreasonable grounds, and it is more than disrespectful to leave this case without justice for Trayvon and his family- justice for Black Americans. 58 years since Emmett Till became the martyr for equality, we have a new martyr: Trayvon Martin.

“I have a dream today…” – Martin Luther King, 28th of August 1963

… that equality will be a reality and not just legislatory, that opinions will change and people will be accepting and understanding of people regardless of race, religion, gender and sexuality. It’s unrealistic, I know.

 

The Green Light

“He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away” (The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald)

The American Dream; an ideal that was, and still is, inexplicably unreachable.  However, was this ideal in danger of being on an even more unreachable precipice in the last week? As with Gatsby, there’s always that object, the dark water, blocking our ability to fulfil our dreams, be that the restrictions of society, our own fears or the actions of others; it is arguable that this dark water, this object preventing us from reaching our dreams and fulfilling our desires was going to have a face: Mitt Romney’s.

Romney’s political stance, the political stance of GOP in it’s entirety, jeopardises any hope that the American Dream still exists. Like Gatsby’s world, the proposed policies of Romney involved money, and money alone; reminiscent of the laissez faire-minimal government-maximise profits ideology of the 1920’s, with one difference: economic state. The idea to maximise profits and minimise government policy seems justifiable in a society where social issues are non-existent, however, this utopia is purely fictional. Similarly to the 1920’s, 2012 America has many social issues; issues of welfare, rights and still, race. Romney condemned Obama’s social policies as ‘extraordinary financial gifts’, citing free health care and contraceptive medications in particular, things that we, in Britain, perhaps take advantage of. Nonetheless, doesn’t the fact that we take advantage of these things, show how essential they are to our welfare?

Romney claims that the ‘big issues for the whole country’ are: military strategy, foreign policy and a strong economy. But what about freedom, education and healthcare? Surely these are greater, and more widely applicable issues for the population of America. The foundation of every society should be personal liberties: freedom of speech, press, the right to vote and so on. But, even in America, these liberties are still not established. Romney’s stance on social issues projects anti-abortion and anti-gay rights and therefore anti-freedom, setting back the progress of the last 60 years. Is this really in the best interests of the American population: imposing on, rather than granting further rights?

The loss of, or lack of such rights seriously imposes on any ideal of the ‘American Dream’, an ideal dependent on the ability to choose, and hence the availability of freedom. The loss of our, the common people’s ability to achieve their ‘American Dream’ allow people, like Mitt Romney, to achieve theirs. This is unethical, at least, according to Kantian Ethics: an act that uses others as a means to an end is wrong. The eyes of a Dr T.J Eckleburg looks over us judging our morality, or lack of, placing our dreams on a precipice.

And so, the dark water ebbs onwards between us and our dreams, until disillusion forms and we are left with nothing, hardly a glimmer of hope.

All in the name of political ideology.