Has Martin Luther King's "Dream" been fulfilled?

A new CNN poll asks the question on Martin Luther King Day, and not surprisingly, the election of America’s first black president appears to have made a big difference from earlier responses.  Last year at this time, only a third of African-Americans believed that we had achieved King’s vision.  This year, two-thirds say we have fulfilled the promise, but surprisingly, whites are more pessimistic:

More than two-thirds of African-Americans believe Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for race relations has been fulfilled, a CNN poll found — a figure up sharply from a survey in early 2008.

The CNN-Opinion Research Corp. survey was released Monday, a federal holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader and a day before Barack Obama is to be sworn in as the first black U.S. president.

The poll found 69 percent of blacks said King’s vision has been fulfilled in the more than 45 years since his 1963 “I have a dream” speech — roughly double the 34 percent who agreed with that assessment in a similar poll taken last March.

But whites remain less optimistic, the survey found.

“Whites don’t feel the same way — a majority of them say that the country has not yet fulfilled King’s vision,” CNN polling director Keating Holland said. However, the number of whites saying the dream has been fulfilled has also gone up since March, from 35 percent to 46 percent.

Glenn Reynolds says the difference between responses from whites and blacks comes from a guilt to which whites cling.  I’m not certain that’s it entirely, although I think some on the hard Left like to use it as a crutch to justify their somewhat totalitarian policy demands.  Without having American society to decry for its racist/imperialist bent, their policies of confiscation and elite control make no sense at all, to the extent they ever did.  Acknowledging that a free-market, democratic nation can make that kind of progress knocks the legs out from under the International ANSWER/World Can’t Wait crowd.

I’d say that the more pessimistic attitude coming from whites may not be pessimism at all, but a sense that whites don’t have the standing to make that call, in a philosophical sense at least.  We don’t live the black experience, and while that gets overstated at times, it still means that we don’t necessarily notice barriers when they exist.  The best we can do is to make sure that we don’t discriminate in government policy, law enforcement, and the marketplace, and hope for the day when racial divisions become as meaningful as the conflicts between the Irish and the Italians a century ago.

Electing a black President goes a long way to proving that we have indeed fulfilled Martin Luther King’s vision of America as a place of true equality.  That doesn’t make me a fan of Barack Obama, mind you, because I’m much more concerned over policy than skin color — and that’s also a fulfillment of Dr.King’s vision.  It just makes me a fan of America.