Realizing the Civil Rights Dream

Diagnosing and Treating American Racism

by Kenneth B. Bedell
Foreword by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.


Since 1976, the unemployment rate of African Americans has consistently remained about twice that of white U.S. citizens across time, regardless of educational attainment.

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Cover image for Realizing the Civil Rights Dream

August 2017


Pages 272
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Race and Ethnicity/General
  Current Events and Issues/Ethnicity

This book explains why America can realize the civil rights dream in the 21st century—if U.S. citizens take actions as individuals as well as work together for equality.

It has been more than 53 years since Martin Luther King Jr. made his "I Have a Dream" speech. Why has the United States still not been able to make King's dream a reality after a half a century of effort and progress? Is there still hope of full participation for all in America?

In Realizing the Civil Rights Dream: Diagnosing and Treating American Racism, author Kenneth B. Bedell proposes a civil rights dream that grows out of American history and speaks to the 21st-century reality. He makes the case that by adopting a larger perspective of the role of racism in preserving U.S. social, cultural, economic, and political institutions and practices, Americans can understand why it has been so difficult to fulfill the promises of the 1960s civil rights dream. Bedell describes and applies sociological theories that serve to explain why racism is still prevalent in the United States and identifies the steps that are necessary to overcome racism. The book concludes with proposals for ways to apply social science to realize the civil rights dream and examples of how individuals can take action to make a difference.


  • Asks—and answers—the troubling question: Why have the civil rights hopes of the 1960s not yet been realized?
  • Demonstrates the relationship between what happens in everyday life and racism's persistence
  • Provides insightful historical context for racism as it exists in the 21st century
  • Presents a framework for understanding how social forces preserve racism
  • Offers a refreshingly optimistic perspective that racism can be overcome
Author Info

Kenneth B. Bedell, PhD, served as a senior advisor in the Department of Education in the Obama administration. He is the author of Different Ships—Same Boat: A North American Perspective.



“Ken Bedell’s Realizing the Civil Rights Dream: Diagnosing and Treating American Racism is a roadmap to understanding racism and its affect and influence on civil rights efforts and policy makers during the 1960s and beyond.”—David L. Beckley, President, Rust College, Holly Springs, Mississippi

“With a lifetime of experience as a scholar, minister, and Department of Education administrator, Ken Bedell is uniquely qualified to shed light on America’s divisive crisis of racism. Bedell shows where and why we have failed at home; yet he offers hope and a map for a cultural change. The global upsurge in racism and xenophobia underscores this book’s call for alarm, careful thought, and decisive action.”—Anuttama Dasa, Director of Communications, International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

“Based on personal stories, historical examples, and social evidence, this book realistically draws a map of how to reach our civil rights dreams in our era of racial pessimism. Lifting up every voice, its message is hopeful, constructive, and exhilarating.”—Andrew Sung Park, Professor of Theology and Ethics, United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio

"Ken Bedell has written a wise, challenging, and hopeful analysis of race, racism, and the future of American society. Combining personal experience, historical exploration, and perspectives from sociology and social psychology, Bedell argues that American society has moved from a paradigm of unvarnished white supremacy to one that proclaims equality while nevertheless continuing white social and cultural dominance. This white paradigm, as he calls it, stops short of realizing the Civil Rights dream: a 'patchwork quilt' paradigm in which each of the diverse racial, identity, and ethnic groups in American society participates fully in the cultural life of the nation and contributes to the common good. Bedell not only provides an analysis of our past and current racial situation but offers a very helpful road map of practical steps necessary for realizing the Civil Rights dream of a patchwork quilt society."—Jackson W. Carroll, PhD, Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams, Jr. Professor Emeritus of Religion and Society, Duke University

"Few can write so honestly that everyone should have full participation in (our) nation's core values. . . . Good examples of antiracist work tied to suggestions of how we can move forward make reading Bedell's thoughts a must."
—Morris Dees, Founder, Southern Poverty Law Center

"I appreciated Ken Bedell's probing questions during discussions at the U.S. Department of Education. In this book he offers his own answers to two important questions: Why has it been so difficult to make civil rights a reality for all Americans? And what can we do to fulfill the dream of full participation of all in America's future?"—Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education 2009-2015

"Realizing the Civil Rights Dream goes behind the daily headlines of racial division and conflict to address the social structures of racism. Bedell calls on everyone, people of color and whites, wealthy and poor, Democrats and Republicans to make antiracism part of our everyday lives and collective action." —Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Founder and President of Grace and Race Ministries, Inc.

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The Georgetown Voice, Berkley Center Hosts Event on Civil Rights, 10/19/2017

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