Today we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., America’s champion of racial justice and equality. This man endured harassment, threats, beatings, even bombings, but it never stopped his fight for justice and equality. Dr. King not only “had a dream” of a color-blind society, but through his actions, he taught the world the values of unity, tolerance, and love.
As I reflect on these values and the progress our nation has made since Dr. King’s “I Dream” speech, I can’t help but think that there is still serious work to be done. Since King’s August 28, 1963 speech on the Lincoln Memorial steps, our country has undergone dramatic changes in civil liberties, slowly moving closer to a society that nurtures justice and equality for all people, regardless of race, creed, color, religion or ethnic origin. But change is not always easy; it is often achieved against strong opposition.
Currently, we see much political chaos under a president elected on a platform of barely concealed racism, bigotry, and Islamophobia. We watched violence erupt at a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA. We’ve read about rampant sexual assault by people we used to revere. People living in this country for years are being deported, with no questions asked. In July, California’s attorney general reported that hate crimes in the state had risen by double digits for a second straight year.
In light of these and many other events over the past year, many are blaming the president. However, it is important that we recognize that Trump is a symptom, not the cause. His election may have sparked more visible outbreaks of injustice, but injustice has existed for centuries. In order to solve this nation’s racial and ethnic problems we, as citizens must rise above hateful politics and rhetoric; we must join forces to abolish the blindness, bigotry, and injustice that exists.
“We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Although King’s dream of tolerance still seems far away, together, we can begin to make a change. How? First, if you have never done so, I encourage you to read (or listen to) Dr. King’s I have a Dream speech. Next, honor his legacy and continue his important work by giving back to your community. Do what you can to make it more tolerant and just – not just today, but every day. Express your outrage over incidents like Charlottesville. Conduct yourselves as, and raise your children to be, responsible citizens who won’t tolerate bigotry.
Until we open our hearts and minds to each other's life experiences, America's progress, as 'one nation, under God (or under law), indivisible, with liberty and justice for all' will never truly become a reality. And, don’t forget to vote at local, state and national levels. Cast informed ballots and hold your elected representatives accountable.
Martin Luther King Jr. left a legacy of important life lessons. Please comment how he changed or inspired you, and what you are doing to make a difference in your community. Thanks.