The soaring eloquence of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech will indelibly be imprinted on the heart and soul of America. He delivered it at the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (Aug. 28, 1963). It was an event that changed the course of American history and all related human events.
We celebrate that march and speech on the 50th anniversary of its occurrence. Tens of thousands of people gathered that day in front of the Lincoln Memorial and much will never be the same from that day forward.
Not that racism stopped that day. Not that the call for white children and black children, Jews and gentiles to join hands and that all be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, suddenly and miraculously took place. But it was a clarion call and America was put on notice that how human beings related to each other relative to race was at its tipping point and that the winds of change blew with a voice of a hurricane.
But as much credit is due to the messenger, he was not a messiah. He was the voice and leader of the civil rights movement but it was in fact that, a social/political movement. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were yet to be passed. More marches led by regular folks, tens of thousands of them, were yet to take place and yes, the messenger was yet to be killed.
So as we celebrate this historical event and we bask in the warmth of Dr. King’s spoken word, I suggest we look at who is standing on the podium that day and the faces in the crowd who came from hither and yon and, yes, pay homage to the King but know that without the nameless faces of the tens of thousands who marched and protested during the Civil Rights MOVEMENT, the America we know today, with its pimples and scars, would not exist.
I know, particularly with the events and outcome of the Trayvon Martin case, the discussion and debate of late has focused on the black/white race paradigm. Needless to say, this debate is needed and warranted, but like the Civil Rights Movement does not only impact these two groups.
The social/political landscape of the United States has forever changed with all the many different ethnic groups and races that make up our fundamental diversity. The doors that the Civil Rights Movement busted open were opened for all people.
Many recent immigrants in the Asian and Pacific Islander community don’t realize that the openness and legal rights they enjoy are the result on that movement. Many take for granted what took place then, which opened the doors for the many now. So this 50th anniversary celebration is not a sentimental trip down memory lane; it is an opportunity for all to reaffirm and recommit ourselves to the cause of equality for all people.
It is also a time for the APIA community to raise our voices so we are heard and our experience and situations are acknowledged, respected and integrated into the discussion about race in America. We are no longer the minorities’ minority, nor are we the quiet Americans or pseudo-whites.
Our numbers have grown, so we are a critical mass in population. We hold positions of influence in most walks of life, but we have no messenger; nor do we need one, because collectively we have a voice and we are “black and we’re proud.” No, we’ll say it our own way, but yes, we need to be loud.
Warren Furutani has served as a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees, the California State Assembly, and the Los Angeles Board of Public Works. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.