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President Obama does fulfill King’s dream

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 1/18/2011, 10:12 a.m.

King never lost sight of the fact that the legacy of segregation, bigotry and discrimination trapped thousands of poor blacks and that offered no easy resolution.

Nearly a half century after King’s “I Have a Dream” words, the black poor are still just as tightly trapped in the grip of poverty and discrimination that King warned about. On the eve of the King national holiday and Obama’s second year in office, the Boston-based research and economic justice advocacy group, United for a Fair Economy, released its eighth annual King Day report. It found that the gaping disparities in income, wealth, employment, quality and availability of housing, decent schools and health care between blacks, minorities and whites has grown even wider. Countless government reports and studies, and the National Urban League’s 2009 State of Black America report also found that discrimination and poverty are still major barriers for millions.

Obama has publicly bristled at the notion that the civil rights movement is outdated, or worse, that he somehow supplants the ongoing work of civil rights leaders. He has repeatedly praised past civil rights leaders for their heroic battle against racial injustice. This is a fitting tribute to the civil rights movement that challenged the nation to make King’s dream of justice and equality a reality. Obama faced that challenge and defied the racial odds in winning the White House. This was a major step forward. King would have cheered that. He would have undoubtedly cheered just as loudly Obama’s Tucson speech. As long as bigotry, violence and intolerance exist, and Tucson showed that, King and Obama understand that there’s still much to overcome.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.