The book I have a dream: Martin Luther King and the Future of Multicultural America by Echols analyses and evaluates the racial relations in American and a unique vision of America by King described in his speech, I have a dream. The first part of the book descries his attitudes and ethical issues. Echols mentions that among the most acknowledged leaders of humanity Martin Luther King takes superior position.
He was awarded at least fifty college and university degrees, won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, being the youngest person to receive it; he was awarded the American Liberties Medallion by the American Jewish Committee for his “exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty”. Martin Luther king’s Speech, “I Have a Dream” is still relevant today because it reflects the main problems and social issues affected modern society. In spite of great changes in social life and human rights, racial prejudices and stereotypes are common things in out society. This situation threatens national unity and prevents close relations between people and neighbors, colleagues and relatives.
Echols describes that the speech, “I Have a Dream” is still relevant today because it vividly portrays social problems and personal grievances of the 21st century. “God’s children will be able to sing … sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing” (King, 293).
This process is a necessity for both survival and quick decision making. Discerning differences can occur on a conscious or unconscious level. Most of people have learned or have been conditioned to believe that not all differences are equal in meaning, importance, and salience. Echols underlines that the speech is now regarded as an example of a classic of world literature. In this speech, King presented a non-violent protest against the demonstrations for desegregation of restrooms, stores, and lunch counters. Echols ideas contain an appeal to a historic and Christian logic, for it was able to create a modern manifesto of non-violent resistance, which was based on the teachings of Jesus (Echols 41).
Echols questions the role and impact on the speech on society and tries to answer the question: “What King’s dream unfulfilled or unfinished”. Due to the speech, the ideal dream had become a strong appeal for action by the anti-racial movement in South Africa, particularly in the 1980s, when the international interest to free Nelson Mandela took its toll. Moreover, rhetorical power of the speech is obvious, for it gave inspiration and courage for those who were globally oppressed, because it suggested remedy in a form of non-violent direct action.
It proved to be the only spiritually effective way to draw attention of the public to injustice, to make they see it and deal with it. King mentions the fact that the past experiences of the American people were marked by destroyed hopes and ideals. The final effect of the previous actions taken by African Americans was deep disappointment in the system. The people had a choice between the different alternatives. One of the alternatives was to accept the direct action. In this case the bodies of the people were presented as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community.
The case involved a range of the difficulties. The differences have occurred in the process of self-publication. During the whole course the people were asked whether they were “able to accept blows without retaliating” (p.4) or whether they would be able endure the ordeal of jail. Echols states that the dream is still alive and many American people hope that one day it will come true (Echols 89).
Echols underlines that while reading the speech it is easy to understand that King fully supports the program of direct action thus regarding the negotiation as “the best path” (p.4) According to the King, negotiation is “the very purpose of direct action”. The leader of African Americans also accentuates his attention on the fact that non-violent direct action is the way to create a crisis situation. However, negotiation was not that easy to achieve when we are talking about the society of African Americans who had to live in the society that constantly ignored the rights of the black people. Under the circumstances like only way to achieve negotiation is to create the situation of crisis (Echols 66).
Echols questions the social relations and utopian ideas of King. Creation of the crisis can foster a tension in American society. Forcing the crisis is largely reasoned by society’s refusal to confront the issued suggested by African Americans. In other words, a community constantly refused to negotiate the issues. The creation of tension is an important part of the work of the non-violent groups.
Though King regularly uses the word “tension”, this word cannot be associated with the word “aggression” since King is talking about only the non-violent actions. His idea of violence King mentioned in the following way: “I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, non-violent tension which is necessary for growth.” (p.6). Echols states that King goes so far as to refer to the work of Socrates, who felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind. King goes so far as to rephrase the statement of the Greek philosopher and accommodate it to the case with American Blacks (Echols 91).
To summarize, I will give the positive evaluation of King’s the speech since in my view in it one of the most humanized way to introduce changes in the society. The example should be followed by others. In sum, the speech, “I Have a Dream” vividly portrays social problems and personal grievances of the modern generations, it visualizes a dream the society has not achieved yet. This speech appeals to many people because it shows that stereotypes are wrong but they are a part of modern life. “All men are created equal” (King, 492) but the yare not socially, and politically equal (Echols 37).
For King, prejudice is a negative attitude towards black people because of their racial identity and historical relations with white people in America. “God’s children will be able to sing … sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing” (King, 293). Kings explains that racial problems have deep historical roots and closely connected with the period of slavery and dominance of “whites”. While “whites” are universally proud of their background, contemporary African-Americans are still the target of discrimination and outright racism (Echols 65).
Echols explains that the cause of this problem lies in the fact that slaves were seen as a tool deprived of human rights and were unequal to masters. King hopes that “one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood” (King, 492). Exclamation marks, quotes and parallel structure of sentences revealed oral version of the speech and add emotional coloring.
The book reveals that prejudices are caused by different geographical location and origin of people. The book attempts to persuade readers that all people are equal and racial discrimination is nothing more than echo of the past which should be overcome. The speech persuades Americans to be tolerant to other races and nations and stop senseless oppression and discrimination against their neighbors.
In sum, Echols proposes readers an interesting interpretation and analyses of the King’ speech, and evaluates its meaning for modern society and readers. Echols states that King appeals to such universal virtues as tolerance and morals. It is possible to say that King makes his point and pursued the reader to agree with him that all God’s sons and daughter are equal. King expects that his ideas will help many people to “awake” from long sleeping and start fighting, because the established Constitution grants the right to the populace, and no doubt that in modern society the main role is featured to democracy and liberty.
Echols, J. I have a dream: Martin Luther King and the Future of Multicultural America. Fortress Press, 2004.
King, M.L. “I have a Dream”, Chapter 9. Prentice Hall Reader, 2001. pp.290-294.