Martin Luther King once said that he wished for the day when his children “would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” What does he mean?

When Dr. King said that he wished for people to "be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," he expressed his wish for people to be judged for who they are. He hoped for people to judge others based on deeper, more individual qualities than their race.

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This quote comes from King's August 28, 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered during the March on Washington. Quite simply, Dr. King meant that he wanted Black people not to be judged on account of race, which is an uncontrollable and incontrovertible characteristic. He wished they would be judged by the qualities that defined them individually: kindness, intelligence, humor, and other personality and character traits. Though King doesn't mention any particular race in this quote, Black Americans faced the greatest legal and societal hurdles during King's time in gaining equal access to accommodations, realizing their legal rights to vote, and even receiving basic respect during daily encounters with white people.

King's quote imagines a time in the future when people will be less burdened by racism. King had a talent for making his message relatable by injecting his own children into his speeches as examples. He used his love and concern for them—and, by proxy, white parents's love and respect for their children—to help his audience imagine a brighter and better future, one in which everyone would be liberated from racism.

Though King doesn't mention any particular racial group in his speech, one can infer that those who were likeliest to be judged based on exterior characteristics were Black people. This can be deduced by considering the violent oppression that Black people, in both the North and the South, faced in their daily lives for no other reason than the color of their skin.

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