What would Martin Luther King think today about the health of his dream and the American dream that are inseperable? One must answer that question humbly, cautiously, for King was an independent, critical thinker and a prophetic voice.
I suspect King would be pleased, but not surprised, that the American people elected and re-elected the first African American President. King had a dream that everyone would be judged based on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. President Obama and his second inauguration proves that progress is being made on eradicating prejudice and discrimination, though more hearts must be freed from hate and more work done.
King would be also pleased to see African Americans and other minorities voting in large numbers and at higher rates. At the heart of the civil rights struggle for which King and others died was the franchise and so voting honors their sacrifice. Indeed, a surge of African American voting was decisive in Ohio, the most crucial of all states, during the 2012 election.
While King likely would celebrate the progress being made to expand liberty for all and push back intolerance, he would urge us to leave nobody behind. Almost certainly, King would find tragic and unacceptable that 20% of America's children live in poverty and challenge the nation to respond.
King saw poverty as immoral, evil, and would be crusading against it today.
King would be concerned that the typical American male's income in 2011 was lower in real or inflation adjusted dollars than in 1968. opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/inequality-is-holding-back-the-recovery/.
In the linked to article, Stiglitz states that an American male earned $33,800 in 1968 but only $32,986 in 2011. That is stunning! King would join with Stiglitz to make both a moral and economic case against the growing inequality in America that means children born here have less social mobility than those born in Canada, Sweden, United Kingdom and other nations.
Declining average incomes for male workers is one indicator that the American dream of being judged by the content of one's character and earning a good life in return for hard work is imperiled.
King would also be appalled that the life expectancy of white women and men without a high school diploma has fallen 5 years and 3 years respectively. Those numbers are shocking.
King's dream and the American dream are, indeed, inseparable. The night before his death in his last public remarks he prophetically told a crowd that he had been to a mountain top and seen the promised land, that he might not reach that land, but they would. He died for freedom and end to hate. He preached Christian love in action.
He also died in Memphis, standing with sanitation workers seeking a better contract. While he would likely celebrate the fact of President Obama's second inaugural and the political participation of so many that made it possible, King would almost certainly be deeply worried about growing inequality that threatens the dreams of so many Americans.