History professor says Martin Luther King Jr.’s message still relevant today

Reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech and its relevance 57 years later
Published: Aug. 28, 2020 at 4:46 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - On August 28, 1964, roughly a quarter million people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. to listen to Martin Luther King Jr. share his dream for an America without racism.

57 years later, his “I have a Dream” speech continues to resonate with many Americans as they protest racial injustices and police brutality.

“The I ’have a dream’ speech was a vision of what we wanted America to be, what America can be, but is not yet because of stereotypes,” says Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, a history professor at UW-Eau Claire.

Ducksworth-Lawton says King’s dream is yet to become reality.

“We are not equal until we are all treated equally and the people who want to say there is no racism today are deluding themselves,” she says.

A new “March on Washington” was held Friday in the nation’s capitol following a week of protests sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI.

“What we saw in Kenosha is what King fought against where there was one very harsh standard applied to Mr. Blake,” Ducksworth-Lawton says. “We need one standard and professionally trained police forces and that is what king wanted.”

Many of the protests have led to violence and destruction, something Ducksworth-Lawton says King likely would not have approved of.

“Martin Luther King wanted a disciplined civil rights movement. He didn’t want riots but he understood the riots as the voice of people unheard,” she says.

Ducksworth-Lawton says protests in Kenosha and those following the death of George Floyd in May are a continuation of the Civil Rights Movement.

“It feels a lot like 1968, it really does, and we have a choice to make and that choice is are we going to be a country that is justice for some or justice for all,” she says.

A peaceful protest is planned for Eau Claire this weekend. It is scheduled to begin at 4:30 in Randall Park with speeches followed by a march to the Eau Claire County Government Center.

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