On August 28, 1963, in Washington D.C., Martin Luther King, Jr's voice rang out in his famous speech, "I Have A Dream." He stated, "I have a dream that my four 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." This simple, yet poignant statement about equality, has become the rallying call by which conservatives attack affirmative action, winning the battle to eliminate its usage in many cases.
Conservatives such as Ward Connerly, a black member of the University of California Board of Regents, led the fight to eliminate affirmative action in admissions. This fight carried over to the State and across the nation. In arguing for the elimination of affirmative action, Connerly often evoked the `not to be judged by the color' statement of the "I Have a Dream" speech to intimate that this is what Dr. King was saying 39 years ago - don't judge us by our color.
In a perfect world where everything truly was equal, this statement would be true and there would be no need to factor in race when determining equality. But in Dr. King's time, as in today's world, a perfect world and equality are still dreams.
Equality begins with education, and in our world educational opportunity is still unevenly distributed amongst the races. Those scoring the lowest on school tests are predominately minorities. The worst schools are in predominately minority neighborhoods. Opportunities for minority students to enter universities are far less than for other races.
There are far fewer employment opportunities for minorities, as well. A good example can be found within the city of San Diego. When the General Contractors Association sued over the affirmative action issue in awarding contracts and won, contracts awarded to minority firms dropped off the radar screen. Less than one percent of the contracts were going to Hispanic, Black or female-owned firms. We ended up with affirmative action for White majority contractors and vendors.
In the areas of housing, health, media and politics, minorities are still woefully underrepresented and under served. In some areas such as prison populations, unemployment and welfare, we are woefully overrepresented.
Dr. King was not stating that we should just eliminate "color" (race) from the equation. His vision was that someday his children - all children - would enter this life with the same opportunities. These opportunities would extend throughout their lifetimes, and they would then be judged solely on their character. We are far from achieving Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, dream.