So much of our national conversation about race is the droning kind that puts most people to sleep. "Platitudes, three for five bucks," a speechwriter calls out. "Why can't we just get along?" the bumper sticker with a smiley face asks.
At WORLD, we decided to have a special issue on the topic of black-white relations because few subjects in America have been so vexatious for so long. But we didn't want to get boilerplate essays, so we asked seven thinkers to play off the wonderful "I Have a Dream" speech that Martin Luther King Jr. gave on Aug. 28, 1963. We asked our contributors to put themselves in the position of a person writing in 2063 on the 100th anniversary of the speech.
We told the writers that we wanted their sense of whether in 2063 individuals "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." We wanted them to deal with questions such as: Have relations between blacks and whites gotten better or worse during the period between now and then? What specific changes account for that progress or descent? How were issues such as affirmative action and school choice settled? Did the gap between blacks and whites in areas such as wages, education, voting tendencies, and family formation increase or decrease?
We start this special issue, as we have our previous five, with an instructive timeline. Then come the articles, some optimistic that by 2063 race relations will have greatly improved, and some pessimistic. But they all reflect what Dr. King noted in 1963: that in America the future of one race is tied up with the future of other races, and the freedom of one is inextricably bound to the freedom of others, for "We cannot walk alone."