17.04.2024 Author: Simon Chege Ndiritu

Black People’s Nightmare in Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream”

Black People’s Nightmare in Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream”

Atrocities against Blacks in US and Persistent Poverty in Africans link back to slavery-colonialism structure that is not willing to change. There is a need to find a new strategy.


Black American’s Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s coincided with African’s fight for freedom from colonialists, and the response to both groups’ activities was similar in that the US and Europeans promised to allow the demanded rights but continued with exploitation. Martin Luther King Jr.’s (MLK) “I Have a Dream” speech (here) of August1963 occurred in the year when decolonization was occurring in earnest across Africa. Kenyans had secured internal governance in June, and would become a republic in December the same year, as other countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, and Nigeria, had recently gained independence from European colonialists. In hindsight, ‘independence’ followed an unfortunate pattern in which the US and Europeans had granted their slaves and colonized peoples nominal freedom, but continued with exploitation. The ‘Independence’ that European colonialists (now backed by the US) gave to Africans is similar to successive promises of freedom the US granted to black Americans firstly, at the independence declaration (1776) and secondly, at Emancipation Proclamation 1863 but did not meet them. The US Failure to meet these promises is noted in that, its transgressions that MLK complained about, such as ghettoization, and police brutality against Black Americans have remained to date. For instance, in 2023, black Americans earn less than whites (here) and experienced the highest annual rate of police killing on record, at 3 times that of white people (here). Similarly, Africans continue to wait for meaningful economic, and political freedom after nominal ‘independence’ (here). Black people failed to note and react to The Colonialist West’s repeated hypocrisy, a failure that hamstrung their quest for sustainable liberties (in the US) and meaningful Freedom for Africans. Africans in their countries continue experiencing exploitation in some aspects similar to colonial times (here). The author looks into Kenya as an example of how African countries maintain colonial era economic orientation as a result of following the US, and UK’s guidance into neocolonialism instead of pursuing true independence. Kenya and Africa’s orientation explains why Africa is still poor 60 years after the Civil Rights Movement and ‘independence’, and why it is likely to remain so in the interest of the US and Europe.

Transition of Slavery and Colonialism into Every Era

The slavery-colonial system that had kept black people poor by 1963 has hijacked African economies, for instance Kenya, and has been utilizing the best of its land for free and cheap labor to produce commodities for Europeans’ and American’s needs. 2019 Economist article (here) illustrates this modern colonization, in which UK companies (including Unilever, Williamson Tea and Finlays here) and the US ones (Del Monte-here) retained large pieces of land which they use to produce cheap commodities for western markets. These firms report and repatriate all their earnings in the West (here). The reality is not different from the case during colonization when Europeans forcefully obtained Africa’s land and forced labor, to produce commodities and sell them to European consumers, for a profit (here). European and American consumers’ continue to access some products without the cost of land, and with minimal costs of labour as factors of production, while western firms make profit enriching their societies and governments. Oppositely, Kenyan land used by westerners for free is economical lost to citizens.

Use of African’s resources for free to produce commodities for European consumers and earn profit for Western firms constitutes colonialism. The Economist article (here) reveals that Kenya’s most fertile land is still held by the UK and US firms, which illegally acquired it after forceful displacement of natives during colonization. These firms produce tea, flowers, and fruits, for export while Kenya struggles to produce enough food (wheat, maize, and oils) for its population as the remaining arable land is inadequate (here). It has to import food for a higher amount of money than tea exports bring the country. In 2023, Kenya earned $1 billion from tea exports (here) and spent $2.5 billion USD importing grain (here), which is an unsustainable trade balance for Kenya. Tea and similar products are exported at prices set by European buyers. If Kenya and Africa were truly independent, the illegally acquired land on which tea and other colonial era products are grown could be used to produce more tonnage of grain to enhance food sufficiency, drive industrialization, and sell surplus in free global markets to generate wealth. Instead, the country utilizes money obtained from tourism and remittances, the former of which the West regularly disrupts using adverse travel advisories. Meanwhile, Western economic advisers repeat a cacophony of how Kenya needs to deregulate to attract foreign investment, calls that show additional efforts for colonialists to gain even more control. Deregulation does not promote industrialization or reduce poverty, and calls for such policy are hypocritical. Kenya and Africa can be food sufficient, industrialize, and organically attract investment if locals gained access to resources to produce for their needs and export surplus.

African Leaders Ignore West’s hypocrisy at their own Peril

African governments ignore the pattern seen in the “I have a Dream” speech noted earlier. Kenyan governments enforce western companies’ illegal land ownership using the absurd legal protection for private property. However, the same government has stayed away from ensuring that the illegally acquired land is returned, or that African owners are commensurately compensated. Consequently, communities have been left to their own devices in seeking justice for being evicted from their land, by the British military in the 1920s-1950s, including by presenting the matter in foreign courts (here). The Kenyan government’s enabling neocolonialism is also noted in a similar case, where a Kenyan community was demanding return of their land and compensation for eviction by British ranchers (here). However, the Kenyan government blocked the group from presenting a petition to the British high commission, invoking legal protection of private property. This protection seems to apply only after Europeans or Americans steal things, as the ranches being protected were established after Britons evicted native communities and seized livestock for subsequent breeding. The Western media (here) was quick to state how the return of these ranches to original owners would equate to Mugabe’s land seizure, and boasted how it would result in western sanctions that can collapse Kenyan’s economy which, according to them, ‘depends on foreign investment and aid’, assertions that are false and juvenile. Still, the high extent of Kenya’s economy depending on the west is caused by neocolonialism. Consequently, the two faced nature of the US and Europe’s colonial structure is seen in how the setup brainwashed African leaders to adopt neocolonial economic orientation but distances itself from adverse effects of its devious recommendations. African leaders’ failure to seek a sovereign economic path will bind Africa firmly to current and future ways of the West’s exploitation. Hence, Africans will continue being exploited, while believing they are free, such that MLK’s Dream will remain a nightmare.


Simon Chege Ndiritu, is a political observer and research analyst from Africa, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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