Remembering King, Race Relations and the Race for '08
CHERYL CORLEY, host:
This is normally the time we turn to the guys in the Barbershop. But this week, we had so much to talk about and too little time, so we posted the full conversation on the Tell Me More website. But let's do a little eavesdropping as shop regulars Tom, T.J. Lyden, Ruben Navarrette, Jimi Izrael, and Arsalan Iftikhar talk about whether Martin Luther King's dream has been realized.
Mr. T.J. LYDEN: I don't think so. I mean, we've made a lot of strides. I mean, if you just look at the presidential election this year, we've had a black gentleman running. We've had a female running. We had a Mormon running. So I mean, we're getting closer, but we've still got miles to go.
JIMI IZRAEL: What do you say, Ruben?
RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Yeah, I say miles to go. It's interesting, though. Even our recollection of Dr. King is a little skewed. A lot of folks sort of tune into King around the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which started with Rosa Parks not giving up her seat in 1959, and then, you know, they catch up with "I Have a Dream" in 1963.
And if you ever listen to particularly white folks talk about Martin Luther King, they always sort of center on that one line about how, you know, let's judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. But then, nobody thinks about what happened for the next five years up until 1968 and the Memphis speech.
There was a real radicalization of Dr. King during those years, because of the Vietnam War, and because of 1967, '68, and so it's kind of interesting, you know? I mean, we got into this with the Reverend Wright controversy. A lot of folks said, you know, gee, I don't know, I sort of wish Dr. King was around because that was different.
I don't think so. I think the recollection is skewed somehow. We forget that Dr. King, at the end of his life, was talking about this being a violent country and about war and about all that stuff, and it's funny how in the scope of history, we remember things differently.
ARSALAN IFTKHAR: For me, at least, as a civil rights lawyer, I think, in my personal opinion, I think Dr. Martin Luther King was the most important American ever to walk this land in the 20th century. If you look at the Civil Right Act of 1964, Brown v. Board, you know, the apex of the civil rights movement and what we see today as constitutional rights for all Americans regardless of their race, religion, or socio-economic status.
I don't think that anyone had a more resonating impact and a more historical impact. I mean, Dr. Martin Luther King will live forever in American and world history. And you know, the little nuances here and there aside, I think that if Dr. Martin Luther King were still alive today, I think America would be much closer to realizing that dream than, unfortunately, we are today.
CORLEY: Arsalan, Jimi, Ruben, and T.J. You know you can't stop them when they're on a roll. Visit us online at npr.org/tellmemore to listen to the rest of the Barbershop.
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