DOUG ROSS: I'm dreaming, and you should too

2013-08-30T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: I'm dreaming, and you should tooBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

Fifty years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. told the world, "I have a dream." This is a report card on that dream.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," King said on Aug. 28, 1963.

I was a little child, just 4 years old.

A few years later, I went on a family vacation down south where I saw drinking fountains labeled "White" and "Colored." If only the labels referred to the color of the appliances, rather than the people using them. But change was coming.

There are still people who resist change, even when it brings us closer to the all-American ideal of "all men are created equal."

Valparaiso University assistant Professor Elizabeth Gingerich, who co-chairs the school's MLK celebration each year, is trying to break down that resistance.

This time, the MLK celebration theme is "The Beloved Community." That's the original name for what we now know as King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Gingerich and her co-chair, Becky Klein, are are spreading the celebration far beyond the VU campus. 

The idea is to be working on implementation all year and use MLK Week as a time for reporting on progress being made.

"We're really getting back to the fundamentals of King's original message," Gingerich said.

So has King's dream come true?

It's tempting to say yes, especially now that we have an African-American president. But not so fast.

Joan Chumley, an NAACP activist in Michigan City, would say no. To her, and to many others, Trayvon Martin's death provides the answer.

Gingerich noted continuing pay inequality as well as other evidence of discrimination.

"If you're a minority, if you're a black, if you're a woman, you see this as a start," Gingerich said. It's best viewed as a down payment.

Gingerich knows working toward true equality isn't easy. She was 11 years old when her parents, Walt and Lois Reiner, told the families in Chicago where they had been working that the Reiners were moving back to nice, safe Valparaiso.

A few of those African-American families wanted to go to Valparaiso, too.

So the Reiners and a few other Valparaiso University faculty members begain integrating the city. Their efforts weren't welcomed.

Gingerich remembers land by her home being cleared for the new home for Barbara Cotton and her family. When the family moved in, volunteers provided security. Integration had come to Valparaiso.

The 2010 census showed Valparaiso had 1,036 African-American residents, or 3.3 percent of the city's population. Barriers are dropping.

I continue to hear stories of racial bias in Valparaiso and elsewhere, and I cringe.

King's dream is coming true — it must come true — but we're not there yet. That's why Gingerich, Klein and everyone else — including you and me — must continue working to make Northwest Indiana "the beloved community" King dreamed of.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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