The Daily Evergreen

‘He didn’t just dream’

Chad Sokol | Evergreen reporter

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From M-L-K to D-O-double-G, the presence of black icons in American culture must not be perceived as an end to racism in the U.S., an acclaimed sociologist and MSNBC contributor said.

Michael Eric Dyson, a sociology professor from Georgetown University, delivered a speech Wednesday night in the CUB Senior Ballroom to commemorate the impending 50th anniversaries of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Dyson’s speech was titled “Dr. King for the 21st Century.”

“When we hear the name Martin Luther King we automatically and almost inevitably conjure one of the greatest speeches that we have ever listened to,” Dyson said, commending King for his contributions to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Dyson also recognized U.S. Representative John Lewis and civil rights leaders Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young, who each played a part in the movement that King spearheaded.

Steve Bischoff, an associate director of Multicultural Student Services and an instructor in the department of critical culture, gender and race studies, said people ought to assign more value to King’s ideas than to King himself.

While Dyson voiced appreciation for King’s ideas, he rejected what he called “race-based remedies to race-based maladies” – policies of reform based on differences of race.

“First of all we have to admit the persistence of racism in the United States,” he said, contending the prominence of such figures as President Barack Obama and rapper Notorious B.I.G. is not synonymous with social equity.

However, King’s ideas produced numerous tangible results, he said.

“He didn’t just dream, my brothers and sisters. He helped foster an environment where laws were changed,” Dyson said.

He noted in particular the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which improved opportunities for marginalized minorities to obtain housing.

“We have to talk about that unpopular King,” Dyson said, acknowledging the leader was ill-received in some circles due to his stances on poverty and the Vietnam War.

Dyson again recounted Aug. 28, 1963, the day King delivered his pivotal speech.

“As will not be surprising, the women were not included that day,” he said.

Dyson recognized such prominent women’s rights leaders as Dorothy Height and Josephine Baker, both of whom were active during the 1960s.

“You can close black women off the stage, but you cannot keep them from shining,” he said.

Senior anthropology and history major Marco Chavez said he sees a separation of class in American society.

“We’re never going to reach a perfect society,” Chavez said. “To say that it’s perfect for everyone – it’s a lie.”

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‘He didn’t just dream’