This week marks one of the greatest milestones in the advancement of civil rights in the USA, Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech, delivered on August 28, 1963. It is remembered for its arresting rhetoric, and also its vision for a future in which his children would 'not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character,' writes Michael Mullins.
- Eureka Street
The context was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at a time when opportunity was routinely denied to African Americans. The dream was that the right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ guaranteed to all Americans in the country’s founding documents might indeed apply to all Americans regardless of skin colour. In a hopeful sign that dreams are rooted in reality, African Africans were progressively given opportunity and America now has its first black president.
King’s words have implications for the human rights of people all over the world, in particular those who are guaranteed rights by a particular convention or declaration but denied them by the political masters of the day. In Australia in 2013, it is relevant to the rights guaranteed to asylum seekers by the 1951 Refugee Convention but denied by political leaders of the two major parties.
If King arrived by boat seeking asylum in Australia today, his vision might be for a future in which his children would not be judged by how they got here but by the content of their character. He would faced with the denial of opportunity to work and live freely by the harsh rules that apply to asylum seekers, especially with the likely revival of temporary protection visas.
In America 50 years ago, many whites associated African Americans with crime and delinquency, and consequently the content of the character was assumed to be poor. In cases where the character of African Americans was poor, it was invariably a result of their having been denied opportunity. Without jobs and freedom, human beings tend to drift towards lives that are held back by petty crime and drug addiction.
Image: 'I have a dream' mural, King Street, Newtown NSW.
FULL STORY A Martin Luther King dream for Australia