Essay on the Politics and Poets of Racial Identity

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Harvey Mudd College
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Racial identity is a socially assembled system that is employed to classify individuals based on their phenotypical characteristics. Additionally, racial identity is expressed via a range of cultural elements such as images, texts, words, and media. Today, racial identity is expressed through face-to-face and online communications and also, at times, expressed via the collective actions of crowds lobbying for social change. Martin Luther is one of the renowned social activist leaders in the United States, whose speech portrayed the aspects of racial identity. This essay offers a discussion of Luthers speech, I have a dream and an analysis of its depiction of racial identity in the United States.

Author and Speech Description

He was born in 1929 in Atlanta Georgia and died on from assassination in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee (Braybrooke 93). His speech I Have a Dream was delivered in 1963 during a match that was being undertaken om Washington by the black community pertaining jobs and freedom (Howe and Lisi 83). Through the speech, Luther sought to an end to racism. The speech also sought for the provisioning of equality of economic and civil rights. Furthermore, the speech was delivered to approximately 250,000 supporters of the civil rights. This was at the renowned Lincoln Memorial, which is situated at the Washington D.C. (Szeman, Blacker and Sully 115).

Overall Message of the Text and Its Major Themes or Patterns

The overall message of the text was to communicate the effect of racism perpetrated towards the African-Americans in the United States during the 1960s (Burrow 189). During this period, the African-American community was experiencing a high disparity in their access to significant economic opportunities in the nation. Additionally, the aspect of this racial identity in the text is expressed through the major themes in the speech, which include the theme of racism, segregation, and search for freedom. Moreover, these aspects have been represented through the repetition of various terms and phrases in the speech.

For instance, the phrase I have a dream is repeated numerous times in the speech. Luthers usage of this phrase was to emphasize his desire for an America where the Black and White Americans have equal access to social and economic factors. Other words used severally in the speech that can be attributed to the fight for racial equality include freedom (20 times), dream (11 times), and justice (8 times). Others include we (30 times), nation (10 times) and injustice (3 times). Furthermore, Luther used these phrases and term using a convincing tone, to appeal for a change in the outlook of the American culture towards the Black community in the nation.

How the Race and Ethnicity of Luther is Established Within the Text

Luthers speech did not reveal the identity of his racial identity. This is because when addressing the crowd, he used universal terms, such as we and my friends to refer to all the participants of the gathering. Additionally, the participants who had gathered at the Lincoln Memorial were from different racial backgrounds all united for a common purpose, which was to lobby for racial equality.

The Intended Audience for the Text

Furthermore, the intended audience for the text were all persons who felt that all people irrespective of their racial background should be treated equally. This is with respect to being offered equal chances to access various important resources and opportunities in the United States. Furthermore, Lincolns speech sought to instigate a revolutionary reaction among the crowd that he was addressing.

Importance of the Historical and Social Context Through Which the Speech Was Created

Luthers speech had a great significance to the historical and social development of racial equality in the United States. This is because, after Lincolns match and speech, a growing pressure started on John F. Kennedys presidential administration. The pressure was focused on encouraging President Kennedy to push for the passing of the civil rights laws in the Congress. The pressure also sought to make the civil rights recognized at the national level. Today, it is evident that Luthers speech contributed to the attainment of racial equality in the United States.

Discussion of How the Speech Tackles the Issues of Racial Identity

The speech uses a sympathetic tone to illustrate the tribulations that the minority communities in the United States during the 1960s were going through in regards to racial inequality. Moreover, through the tone of the speech, Luther portrays his dream for an America with no traits of racism, racial segregation and other forms of racial segregation against the minority communities that existed in the nation at the time.

Manifestation of Intersectionality in the Speech

No significant linkage can be evidenced in Luther speech in relation to a specific form of inequality in the United States. This is because Luthers speech offered a general illustration of all the forms of inequality that were subjected towards the minority population in the United States in the 1960s. In this case, examples of inequality subjected towards the minority population were poor access to quality education, job opportunities and other social-economic phenomena in the nation.

Ways Through Which the Speech Is an Individual Story and the Story of a Larger Group

In his speech, Luther talks in a sympathetic tone which implies to the targeted audience that he is speaking from the perspective of the affected demographic. In this case, the affected population is the minority groupings in the United States at the time. As such it is arguable for an audience who does not know the author of the speech that he/she would assume that Luther was a Black-American. As such, it can be stated that this form of composition is portrayed as an individual story. Additionally, the speech is also portrayed as a composition for a larger group. This can be evidenced by the terms that Luther uses in the composition of the speech such as we to portray that his work is focused on a larger grouping.

Reason for Choosing the Speech and Discussion of the Reasons Why It Is Interesting

The reason for choosing the speech is that it is among the most globally renowned texts in the world advocating for racial equality in the United States. Additionally, its significance to the aspect of racial equality in the United States has also been significant. As such, it is arguably one of the best literature materials that can be used to express the need for racial equality that existed in the nation during the 1960s.


In conclusion, Luthers speech, I have a dream is one of the best compositions that depicts the theme of racial identity in the United States. The composition was done in the 1960s and lobbied for racial equality in the face of racial segregation that was subjected towards the minority populations in the United States. Furthermore, the overall message of the speech was depicted through its themes of racism, segregation and search for freedom. Also, Luther used repetition of some words such as we to support the message of the speech. During the presentation of the speech, approximately 2500 persons had gathered at Lincolns Memorial. All these people were from different racial grouping, and their primary objective was to lobby for racial equality. Ultimately, in the speech, Luther used a sympathetic tone to convince the targeted audience of the need for racial equality.

Works Cited

BIBLIOGRAPHY Braybrooke, Marcus. Beacons of the Light: 100 Holy People Who Have Shaped the History of Humanity. Ropley: John Hunt Publishing, 2009. Print

Burrow, Rufus. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Theology of Resistance. Jefferson: McFarland, 2014. Print.

Howe, William A., and Penelope L. Lisi. Becoming a Multicultural Educator: Developing Awareness, Gaining Skills, and Taking Action. Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2013. Print.

Szeman, Imre, Sarah Blacker and Justin Sully. A Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2017. Print.

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