As a young girl, growing up in the post-civil rights south, I didn’t have to worry about Jim Crow laws. I wasn’t concerned that I would be persecuted, beaten, or denied access to a public place because of the color of my skin.
I don’t have first-person accounts of my life being threatened.
Every school/college I ever attended was integrated.
At the age of 18, I cast my first vote—no picket lines or shouting protesters to impede my progress.
I’d say my life was, relatively, easy where race is concerned.
That said, I am not naive to the fact that racism exists. It occurs in more subtle forms now, but it is by no means eliminated. And, despite what many believe, it did not become a dead topic with the election of President Barack Obama.
So, as I revisited the “I Have A Dream” speech (seen below), I marveled both at how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. Though King’s speech spoke of racial inequality, the message of tolerance and respect is one that still applies today.
We, as Americans, are still judging each other. We are still looking at the poor and labeling them unworthy of help. We are still choosing to devalue the life of the men and women who decide to live a lifestyle different from that of our own. We are still content to see inner-city children receive lesser educations—at times—than their suburban counterparts.
The ignorance still exists because we continue to allow ourselves to be educated by the words and belief systems of others, rather than through educating ourselves. Change has come, but there is still much room for improvement.
MLK Day was meant to recognize a man who fought hard for the rights of blacks and he is deserving of this respect for all that he was able to do in a time when most were unwilling to take a stand.
However, this day is just as important for those whose lives weren’t directly altered by the works of Dr. King, and other great civil rights activists, because it’s a sad reminder of how justice can be twisted if left unchallenged.
We are better today than we were 50 years ago, but there is always room to do, and be, better.