Media outlets are reporting that Americans believe that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has been fulfilled as a result of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency. In fact, a new CNN poll found that more than two thirds of African-Americans believe that to be true.
The poll found 69 percent of blacks said King’s vision has been fulfilled in the more than 45 years since his 1963 “I have a dream” speech — roughly double the 34 percent who agreed with that assessment in a similar poll taken last March.
But let us not forget that economic justice was a central component of King’s vision. In fact, at the time of his assassination, King (with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) was focused on the “Poor People’s Campaign,” an effort to promote a bill of rights for poor Americans.
The election of Barack Obama by itself does not erase the fact that economic inequality in our nation is at historic highs. This inequality disproportionately affects the black community. There is work to be done. Educational opportunity provides a path to success in the labor market and resulting economic gains. President Obama has a tremendous opportunity to be not just a physical embodiment of King’s dream but to change national policies that feed inequality, both in opportunities and in outcomes.