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Triangle professors, mayor reflect on King's dream

Posted August 28, 2013

— The 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. prompts thoughtful reflection on how far the nation has progressed in race relations since that famous day on the National Mall — and what work remains to be done.

WRAL News posed questions to two university professors and an elected leader, asking whether they believe King’s dream of equality has been achieved. Here are their responses.

Irving Joyner Three Triangle men reflect on King's dream

Irvin Joyner, law professor, North Carolina Central University
“The needs today are as pressing as they were then. In fact, the same issues raised in 1963 are being raised in 2013 – and that’s depressing. It’s also inspiring to know that people remember and are willing to re-fight all of the battles we had to fight. This is a day, and after today if you don’t return to do the work, then the day is going to be meaningless. We have made some incremental progress, but we have found there is resistance to that progress. And along the way, they have been steadily trying to chop back and keeping us away from the level we need to be at.

“There are changes, of course. (We) didn’t have an African-American as president in 1963, nor did anyone really dream that we would. But electing a person does not lift the boat for all African-Americans and all racial minorities in this country.”

Bill Bell, mayor, City of Durham
“We made great gains – the fact that I’m sitting here as the mayor of the City of Durham – my concern is I think we are on a slippery slope. If we are not careful, we could very easily slip back into that chasm we were in in the ‘50s. We still have far too much poverty, and it tends to be in the African-American community. We still are not graduating enough of our children out of high school. Reduing crime in the community, reducing poverty, increasing educational level is important for everyone.
“We still don’t have the assets that the majority community has in this nation. We still don’t have the home ownership that the majority has in this community. I think in terms of economics, we still don’t have the number of businesses I would like to see us have in terms of owning businesses. When we get there, we will see a lot of the ideas that Rev. King talked about will help us reach the dream he talked about.”

William Darity, professor of public policy and African-American studies, Duke University
“I may be an exception in proposing that (the dream has not been realized). I don’t think there has been a significant amount of progress toward equality in the United States over the past 50 years, particularly if we look at economic disparities. We have certainly made some progress that appears to be rolling back now in the capacity of black folks to participate fully in the political system. Certainly, if we look at 1963 versus 2013 in terms of the presence of blacks as voters, there has to be a dramatic change.

"If we look at the relative economic position of blacks in the United States, I would argue that on some dimensions, it’s actually gotten worse. I don’t think any social policies were pursued that would change the structure of the American economy to eliminate discrimination in the American economy.”


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  • thooty73 Aug 30, 2013

    Sad part to me, why erect statues of a man(any man), and glorify him as a God. King was a great man of vision, and as a christian, I would imagine the last thing he would want is for his cause to become greater than his Father's! And now you have christian leaders, rev's to clarify, who bypass the message of Christ on a national stage, and keep people stuck in the rut of racism for there own personal gain.

  • Objective Scientist Aug 29, 2013

    A white male, I grew up during the throes of integration. Integration was long overdue, necessary, needed, and absolutely had to happen for this country to move forward. I saw/witnessed many injustices. I supported integration and racial equality... however, I truly tire of what is continually at the forefront with every civil rights milestone aniversary - that being the refrain "We still have a long way to go"! There have been HUGE, truly HUGE accomplishments and we are far FAR from where we were in the 1960s. That is always lost in the refrain of "We STILL have a long way to go!" How about some balance? And... those who want to be "equal" need to be willing to work for it. My educational and economic success far exceeds that of my parents and siblings... that became about because of opportunity afforded me - YES! But it would NOT have happened if I had not truly "worked my *ss off" 24/7 to take advantage of the opportunity!!! That part seems "overlooked" in seeking equality

  • johnny2times Aug 29, 2013

    Too bad the message from the speech he gave has been distorted to mean "leech off the system" and become a government slave by going on the system

    A person
    August 28, 2013 6:49 p.m.


  • johnny2times Aug 29, 2013

    Instead of living in the past with the "I have a dream", how about trying to act the way he was describing in his speech? Stop crying racism all the time and DO something about it. I think its funny that famous rappers especially call each other the N-word...would MLK Jr. approve of that? Your sending the wrong message if you act like that...so good job on giving yourself a bad image..Its sad that people don't have any respect for others anymore..

  • tobywilliamson1973 Aug 29, 2013

    I gotta a dream. It'll be here in 3 yrs.

  • 678devilish Aug 29, 2013

    Why continue to lean on Dr. Martin? What are we as individuals doing to make this a better world to live in?

  • BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah Aug 29, 2013

    MLK was a Great Man. His speech was heartwarming and dignified.
    Glad to honor the 50th anniversary of this Great Man's speech!

  • Leland Olds Aug 29, 2013

    If the President said something like this, then we'd know he was serious:

    "And then, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us, claiming to push for change, lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots.

    "Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself. All of that history is how progress stalled. That's how hope was diverted. It's how our country remained divided."

  • Hill55 Aug 28, 2013

    Unfortunately, this was a democrat rally, including the some of usually hacks from the civil rights industry.

    President Obama spoke of how the change went all the way up to the White House, so true. but they forgot to include the only African American on the US Supreme Court. Why was Justice Thomas left off the guest list? Because this turned out to be a very partisan affair. So sad.

  • A person Aug 28, 2013

    Too bad the message from the speech he gave has been distorted to mean "leech off the system" and become a government slave by going on the system