“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., quote from his “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963.
Most people only remember the last lines of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. But the quote above, also from that same speech, is what I want to focus on in thinking about the future of the City of Minneapolis and the State of Minnesota.
Our community, city and state face serious problems of poverty, racial inequality and economic disparity. Minnesota ranks as the second-worst state for racial inequality for Black people with glaring disparities in which Blacks are incarcerated at higher numbers, have lower incomes, higher unemployment, and lower home ownership than Whites.
We can no longer take the “luxury of cooling off” to study the problem. We already know there is a problem. What we need are real solutions. Policies must be crafted in partnership with business, government and the community. This partnership must include Black voices and leadership.
We can no longer create solutions without listening to the people who are experiencing the problems, and we can no longer tell Blacks and other people of color that change must come gradually, or to wait.
It is 2018 — 55 years after Dr. King delivered his famous speech. As Dr. King said, we must be reminded of the urgency of now. There is no time to “cool off” or proceed gradually. Now is the time to make the promises of democracy a reality and not just a campaign slogan, soundbite or hashtag.
Tina Burnside is a civil rights attorney and writer.