MLK Day: Is America Changed?

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledges the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial for his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington, in this Aug. 28, 1963 file photo. In the last five years of his life King attempted to refashion the civil rights movement he helped inspire. This often overlooked period of his life is the subject of "Citizen King," a new documentary airing on PBS stations Monday, Jan. 19, 2004.
AP (file)
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

It's the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and for the first time in a long while, people are quoting the great civil right leader and asking in real terms if America has changed since his tragic death in 1968.

On one hand, the answer is obvious: Dr. King surely dreamed that one day a person of color would become president.

That's no dream but reality to the supporters of Brack Obama.

Still, blacks in America are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the poor, in the prison population, in single-parent families.

The wounds and the sins of slavery have not been salved by several decades of legal equality. No, plenty of America is still "separate and unequal."

Yet there are opportunities in business and education that didn't exist as recently as ten years ago.

Still, many African Americans don't believe they have a stake, don't believe the culture is fair.

If Dr. King were alive today, he'd be both pleased and pained.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.