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Commentary

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Thanks for the dream

By Alisha Broughton | Jan 17, 2012
Alisha Broughton is an adjunct assistant professor in the Delaware State University English Department.

During the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed, beaten and eventually killed for his leadership in the civil rights movement. His nonviolent approach to change, his perseverance in the face of defeat, and his ability to inspire people with a dream of equality are still widely discussed and remembered today. Quite the contrary, it is 2011 and America now has a black president, but it is not an indication of progress in the realm of race relations. Having a black man in the Oval Office has brought out the vile disease of racism like never before, and it informs us that the white supremacist tendencies of America’s history still live. It is a normal human trait to gravitate toward those who share similarities of race, dress and political persuasion, but the hatred of and superiority over the “other” is counterproductive and will be the ruination of America if it continues unabated.

Racism in America is not limited to hatred of African-Americans, and the past year’s negative rhetoric against immigrants, the poor, and Muslims has been a display within the general population of America. The racist belief that people of color are illegitimate is never more obvious than in the attacks on President Obama. Fox News pundits like Glenn Beck, who labeled Obama a Nazi, socialist, communist and racist meant nothing more than an attack on his race. Nothing in the president’s politics remotely resembles Nazism or socialism, but in an effort to brand him as illegitimate, Beck and company use those labels as a substitute for African, or black. When will race relations improve? I am outraged 15 years later and America is still undoing racial relations. What happened to it takes a village to raise a child, or I am my brother’s keeper? This is why we recognize Dr. Martin Luther King. He was a man who wanted to see all people treated equally. So, why has it gotten better but still exists?

Why do we celebrate the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday? It took 15 years to create the federal Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Congressman John Conyers, Democrat from Michigan, first introduced the legislation for a commemorative holiday four days after King was assassinated in 1968.

After the bill became stalled, petitions endorsing the holiday containing six million names were submitted to Congress. Conyers and Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Democrat of New York, resubmitted King holiday legislation each subsequent legislative session. Public pressure for the holiday mounted during the 1982 and 1983 civil rights marches in Washington. Congress passed the holiday legislation in 1983, which was then signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. A compromise moving the holiday from Jan. 15, King's birthday, which was considered too close to Christmas and New Year'sD ay, to the third Monday in January helped overcome opposition to the law.

Leaders of other civil rights groups felt King should have stuck to civil rights and left other issues alone, especially if it would trigger backlash. King said, “Might makes right.” He never stepped down when he knew something was wrong. Today, so many people complain and do nothing about it. The NAACP once had a slogan, “Don’t talk about it! Be about it!” Call me a troublemaker, but what’s right is right. There are too many injustices that still exist today. Once you stand up for what’s right there will be opposition, but guess what, every good thing is worth standing up for.

The social and economic inequalities in America that are associated with race are staggering and persistent. Pick almost any category where you'd rather have more than less income, health status, property and home ownership, likelihood of having health insurance, life expectancy, or likelihood of having a favorable outcome in the criminal justice system. Ask yourself what prejudices you have against other races. No matter what race you are, you can harbor feelings about others that have no basis in reality. If you see another race as being high achievers, low achievers, more intelligent, less intelligent, nicer, meaner or more or less motivated, you're engaging in racist thought. African-American are no longer the minority.

There is no hope for America if racism and white supremacy continue with no end in sight. However, as America becomes more racially diverse, racists will find themselves in the minority and politically impotent. In the meantime, unbiased Americans must weather the storm and whenever possible, reach out to all minorities in the spirit of brotherhood and tolerance.

But even using the word tolerant shows a level of inequality that is not productive. Tolerance implies “putting up with” a different or lesser person, so that is just another aspect of education that must be addressed.

If only the religious community would use its forum at the pulpit to encourage equality, but they are supremacists of a different sort and cannot be counted on to help. America has a long way to go before racists and white supremacists are insignificant, but it is 2011; must we wait another 200 years, or will we speak out? Many criticize President Obama but if they walked in his shoes, could they do any better? Be slow to speak and sure to listen!

I am sure that I will be scrutinized for this article, but I speak the truth and without truth there can be no change. All Americans need to change their mind-set. We complain about everything, and are less thankful for life-impacting things. We may not have the best luxuries in life but we are alive. That says a whole lot! When we understand that we are blessed by the best, when we can understand our purpose, we can live to fulfill our destinies. Yes, racism still exists, but with God on your side all things are possible to them that believe. If they tell you no, and there are no possibilities, continue to push forward! Allow no one to kill your dream!

God created this universe, this world and everyone in it. People exist in their variety because God designed it that way. Put simply, racism is a criticism of his handiwork. If you told me that you did not like me because of some physical characteristic I have, I might say: "Look buddy, your beef is really with the one that created me. It has nothing to do with me. I had nothing to do with creating myself! I can't change a characteristic you don't like just because you ask me to. Like you, I did not ask to be on this planet and I did not ask to have the characteristics I have. If you do not like me that’s between you and God! Complain to him!" So, in essence, since God’s creation is a reflection of him maybe you would not like God if you were to meet him?

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