Racism was a serious challenge in the United States before the close of the 20th century. The worst affected segments of the North American population were African Americans. In spite of the corrupt law system that had been put in place to safeguard the rights of all citizens, merciless victimization of blacks persisted for a considerably long period. This led to the emergence of several civil rights movements engineered by the black population. The main aim of these movements was to champion for the rights of the African American population.
One of the most remarkable civil rights movement activists was Martin Luther King Jr. He was part of the civil rights movements that spanned throughout the 1960s. These movements organized protests and boycotts in various places of work and areas of public interests (Edwards par.1). Although King gave several inspirational speeches in the course of championing for fairness among all races, the “I Have a Dream” speech has remained to be memorable for several decades. This paper explores the “I Have a Dream” speech and consequently offers an insightful philosophical analysis of the same.
To begin with, it is vital to mention that the tense mood of the people at the time when the speech was delivered gave an impetus to the audience who were mainly activists drawn from the black population. This was a time when African Americans were experiencing the most challenging social times. Hence they were eager to listen to any kind of inspiration that would deliver them from myriads of social injustices. The African Americans were directly inspired by the speech that lasted for 17 minutes.
The speech focused mainly on the lack of social fairness in society. Many scholars have unanimously agreed that the speech demonstrated a high level of rhetoric masterpiece. His speech was structured in order to appeal to a wide array of audiences (Nicolaus 132). Besides, he applied logos, pathos, and ethos to support his ideas in the speech.
Structure of a speech is an integral aspect that cannot be ignored. The “I have a dream” speech was structured in a manner that it could attract a large audience across the board. The plight of the black people was articulated by King Jr. in his speech.
Racism is a form of discrimination against certain races due to indifference in color, belief, norms, and values. It is notable that racial segregation has been perceived as a form of cruelty that debases particular segments of the population. Groups that are subjected to racial stereotypes are eventually susceptible to victimization.
The historical roots of racism states were bitter as can be judged from the Martin Luther King’s speech. As a matter of fact, the backdrop of racism has a deep-seated influence on the current state of American society. All aspects of American society were heavily affected by racism before the emergence of the civil rights groups that ushered a new era of political and social dispensation.
It is apparent that the nature of racism in the United States was based on the belief that African Americans had less superior biological traits. Hence, they were not compatible with those of the whites and other light-skinned races. The race that was deemed to be superior managed to gain higher positions in society. In this case, they were economically empowered. For this reason, such races had a lot of social dominance over other segments of the society that were considered to be less powerful.
In spite of public agitation in seeking fairness and social justice, the Negroes remained in a state of stagnation for a long time. By the time Martin Luther King Jr. was joining the bandwagon, it is definite that social injustice had surpassed the standard norms. On 4th April 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated having fought for social justice for some time. As a civil rights leader and an activist, his engagement with the workers’ unions and the general black population did not go down well with his opponents.
Some weeks before being politically killed, King was extremely vocal on the issue of economic imbalance in the United States. Martin Luther King participated in several campaigns that agitated for equal rights among all races. Such demonstrations were done on streets across the nation. In March 1968, he traveled to Memphis so that he could protest together with the black workers who had been mistreated for long. Unfortunately, the strike became chaotic and led to the death of a young African-American (Blitz and Green 54). This was not the expectation of the group. Nonetheless, he vowed to continue the fight against racism.
The condition and the plight of black Americans have been pointed out in the first section of the speech. He notes that the chains of discrimination and the manacles of segregation have crippled down the socio-political and economic well being of the Negros. In the speech, King asserts that there is a wide economic gap that exists between blacks and the elite whites who are enjoying all the material prosperity that the country possesses.
One of the best philosophies that can be used to understand social inequity that existed during the 20th century is Marxism. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels developed a world view theory referred to as Marxism during the 19th century. The perception was characterized by several wings that have been reviewed by other scholars and political philosophers. These perspectives include eco-socialism, Marxist humanism, feminism and Christian Marxism (Bobbitt 84).
Martin Luther King’s Jr. Speech can be closely linked with the four main elements of Marxism. These elements are instrumental in appreciating how society changed and evolved in the capitalist and racial economy. These elements include a materialistic approach to history, social class divisions, dialectical approach to historical changes and commitment to socialism.
Nevertheless, it is vital to emphasize that although Marxism mainly targeted the communist regime in several assertions, the ideology is duly applicable across the board. For instance, it was first introduced in Canada by the British intellectuals. Nonetheless, Marxism started to stagnate during the 20th-century era. Marxism theories have been critiqued by scholars for some lengthy period now. There are those who argue that it is not suitable for the 21st century or contemporary society.
The proponents of Marxism targeted to fight self- emancipations that prevailed among the working class. It also aimed at eliminating all the domination of the bourgeoisie against the poor in society. The case of America and the racial segregation of black people is a typical example of how social injustice can permeate in society.
The only difference is that racism created a wide social and economic gap in American society while Marxism argues that several movements that fought against various forms of domination such as on gender, race and social class status were formed to fight for the needs of the people.
The Marxists’ view notes that the only way of decimating manifold domination and exploitation is through liberating the working class from being oppressed by rich employers. The latter gave rise to a socialist movement that was aimed to decimate different types of institutional sadism — the Martin Luther King’s Jr. The speech highlighted how black workers were being mistreated at the benefit of the white population (Govind 77).
Moreover, Marxism suggested political actions as one of the most effective ways if liberating weaker segments if the population. The theorist mobilized people not to support certain manifold dominations. This appeared like an effective method of educating people to understand their rights and consequently stand firm in defending their overall socio-political and economical well being.
To recap it all, the “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. was a landmark source of inspiration to the African Americans who had been sidelined based on their racial background. From the above analysis, it is evident that human nature needs hope. In other words, a hopeless human being is analogous to a mortal creature. Although the hope is not a strategy, it clearly generates a new lease of life and intrinsic energy that is required to win crucial battles. The speech by King Jr. is an obvious and quite critical example of how hope can be used to attain success in society.
Blitz, Lisa and Mary, Green. Racism and racial identity: reflections on urban practice in mental health and Social Services. New York: Haworth Press, Inc., 2006. Print.
Bobbitt, David. The Rhetoric of Redemption: Kenneth Burke’s Redemption Drama and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. Print.
Edwards, Stevie. Analysis of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech. n.d.
Govind, Rahul. Equality, Right, and Identity: Rethinking the Contract through Hobbes and Marx 1.154 (2011): 75-79. Print.
Nicolaus, Mills. What Really Happened at the March on Washington? New York: New York University Press, 2000. Print.