Monday, January 18, 2010

"It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream."

Here's the text of the "I Have a Dream" speech.

And posted on the same site, a video excerpt:

I'd like to highlight these lines in particular:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

There's more than one way to understand the words "judged by the color of their skin", especially these days. There's the salient meaning - that of a vicious racist judgment; there's still racism today of course, and this racism is verbalized and perpetrated by individuals all over, from different racial and ethnic groups in our society.

There's also another meaning to those words. One where the judgment doesn't have to be negative, or at least overtly negative. It just has to be a judgment, based on skin color alone. A decision, based on skin color alone. Forget looking at the individual in a well-rounded sense - as a complex person. The individual is instead seen in a superficial sense, a member of a group, like all the other members.

It's a laziness of thought, a degradation of the individual, a diminishing commitment to regard each person as his or her own unique self and help people develop to the fullest extent of their potential. It promotes divisions among people. It promotes a superficial sense of "diversity" - not a diversity of intellect, of ability and talent and temperament - but a kind of diversity that looks good in photo ops. And race is only one dimension in which this superficial and more subtly pernicious form of thinking crops up.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

Let's work towards and fight for a love of the individual - of individual merits and substance, individual complexity, each person judged on character, on competency, on word and deed.

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