As we anticipate another long MLK weekend, the famous “I Have a Dream Speech” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rings yet again, amplifying not only the message of equality in the social context, but in an economic one. The speech’s original intent was to call for an end to economic inequality for all people and to demand the right to gainful employment for all.
“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir … Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.”
King highlighted the wealth disparity produced by the economic system, impacting Black Americans and the need as a society to rectify the “bad check” that was bestowed. In his final book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”, King asserts that the market operation of our economy perpetuates unemployment and idleness.
King’s solutions to create a sustainable economic system that produces opportunities for all people were addressed below, as he expresses concerns over bias in place, further disenfranchising the poor.
“…We have come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operation of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. The poor are less often dismissed from our conscience today by being branded as inferior and incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands it does not eliminate all poverty.”
Martin Luther King Jr.’s aims for a level economic playing field and equality will forever be a historic beacon in the movement for justice that is still strived for today.