The Center for Equity and Inclusion hosted a Real Talk on Jan. 22, which focused on dissecting the famous “I Have a Dream” speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. The Real Talk series is put forth to provide a safe space where students are able to discuss social justice issues happening around the world.
Real Talk attendees watched the speech — which took place on August 28, 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom protest — and pressed pause at every part that they felt intrigued them. As they dissected parts of the legendary speech, attendees were able to dive deep into what each segment meant in their perspective and were able to engage in a conversation with one another and exchange thoughts.
Austin Escalera, student program coordinator for social justice and member of the CEI, led the discussion and deciphered the first chunk of the speech by King.
“America has given Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds’ but we refuse to believe that they bank of justice is bankrupt,” King said. “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
After they heard this segment, an attendee stated that America is looked at as a business transaction and that it functions as an economic system. The attendee also emphasized that there can’t be equity or equality because businesses are not structured in that way. Rather, someone has to be above or below another in the business world, which results in a cycle of inequality.
Another part of the speech that sparked an interest was when King asked the crowd to carry their revolution out in a peaceful manner.
“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline,” King said. “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.”
Thoughts were exchanged and attendees found relevancy of the speech to present issues that people of color are facing today.
One attendee stated that race is a social construct, and shared that they believed supremacy is imbedded in current institutions and legislations, acknowledging that even though there are no signs of visible racial segregation, it’s not unusual for a person of color to be treated differently — even when walking into a store.
“It’s not uncommon for me to be looked at, followed, or asked if I need help,” Escalera said.
Another student mentioned that the only difference of black skin versus white skin is the color. They shared that they think that people of color go behind the system because they lack the means to achieve the “American Dream.” They further explained their belief that people of color don’t have enough wealth or power.
Attendees agreed that the Real Talk was the perfect way to end the week of honoring MLK Jr., and that this particular discussion brought all the events in full circle. As the discussion wrapped up, the Real Talk encouraged the attendees to learn more about MLK Jr.’s famous speech, and expand and clarify their knowledge of terms and other subjects that could be misunderstood in the society, such as the black economy and the white economy, the differences between white people and whiteness and how solidarity and coalition is the way to go in achieving the a greater America.