Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK: The Principles of Equality

Today is Martin Luther King Day. To me, this holiday has always been about remembering the struggles that minorities have had in this country to attain freedom and equal representation under the law. It is a day to celebrate the triumph of our nation over bigotry, racial discrimination, and our history of slavery. 

It is also a time to look at our nation as it is now, and decide where we should go in the future. There are a lot of different views on the issue of race relations in America, and a lot of people have very different opinions. There are those who believe that our country has come a long way, but that there is still great amounts of inequality and racial tension that need to be dealt with. There are others who don't consider race to be an issue at all. And then there are those who believe that racial minorities are the problem and that we as a nation should do more to promote white culture and end "reverse racism." 

Martin Luther King Jr. made his historic speech in Washington because he wanted to share his vision of America with the world. He wanted everyone to know that his movement was not about special treatment for Black Americans, it was a movement for equal treatment. He talked about a world where children of every race and creed, every religion and social class, would live and work and play together with no notions of difference between them. He saw a world where those things did not define them. It was the "content of their character" that people would be based on.

As we move forward into this new year, I believe we have fallen short of Mr. King's vision once again. I believe that we still still suffer prejudices in our thinking, and that we still see the world in terms of the color of skin or in the nature of one's lifestyle. We hear people all the time condemning those they do not agree with, those who do not believe as they do, and we hear people being personally attacked for their beliefs. This happens on all sides of all issues, and it is wrong.

I firmly believe in having discussion and debates with those I disagree with. I believe in respecting other people's point of view, and discussing those views without criticizing the person themselves. But this is not an attitude nor an action that is shared by many in our government or media. They continually assault people's character rather than their positions, turning discussions into character assassinations, and stalling any hope of healthy, productive discourse.

This is tied to King's vision. It is a symptom of a sick society that perceives a person's worth based on their convictions, and not on the fact that they are a person, a citizen of the same nation, with just as much right to their beliefs as anyone. We are constantly hearing people denounce political opponents, lay waste to their competition, in an effort to win elections based, not on their achievements, but on their adversary's failures. That is NOT how a person should win a campaign.

I hope that this is a year of change, and that we will see a growth in understanding and respect in our government and media. I am not confident in this, but I hope. That is all any of us can do. Hope, and speak, and try to move the pin of society in a direction of greater equality, greater respect, and greater cooperation.

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