UNITED STATES—This day comes around every year, but I find it more potent this year than ever before. Why? It seems like nearly 60 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave that infamous “I Have a Dream” speech, as a country we have made some progress, but damn we still have so much more progress to make America. Look 2020 was a horrific year with the Coronavirus pandemic, but at the big forefront for many Americans it was a modern day civil rights movement. Why? Issues pertaining to race and race relations reached a climax with the shocking death of George Floyd.
That death propelled an uprising, a lot good, a lot bad where people made their voices heard. I can recall vividly as a kid, how each year we were given assignments where we had to do a bit of history about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his goals and aspirations. The man was a titan. He had something that all great leaders have, something that is hard to explain with words, but you know it when you see it: charisma. Charisma involves cadence, tone and vocal ability. This man spoke with conviction and evoked his feelings in what he said with such fervor and power that it sends chills done the bones.
This was a man who echoed what I wish we had as a country: being able to view people based on the content of their character on the inside, NOT what they look like on the outside. I wish with every single fiber in my bone that we were a colorblind country. However, let’s face reality: we are not a colorblind society. People want to see color even if they tell you they don’t want to see it. I don’t know if it is us being programmed that way or we just refuse to see beyond race.
I mean 1963, that speech was given and it instilled so much hope, but we are in 2021 and we’ve made progress, but Dr. King’s mission still has not been reached. I asked myself the question all the time: why? Why is it that almost 60 years later we still haven’t gotten there? Is more education needed about tolerance? Do we need more interactions with those who DON’T look like us? I mean the list can go on and on. For so many people, the national holiday paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is just another day where people have the day off. I doubt many are thinking about Dr. King, what he fought for and why what he did during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s was so vital.
As an African-American male, I’ve seen the good and the bad in people. My mother is biracial, my grandfather was Caucasian, my great grandmother’s great grandfather used to own slaves, heck, I have a whole other side of family who I don’t even interact with because they didn’t like the fact of entertaining the ‘Black’ side of the family as they call it. It is odd, it is crazy, but I never felt any resentment from my grandfather, great grandmother or great aunt for being who I was. They didn’t see my race, I was family and that was all that mattered. I mean my great grandmother didn’t talk to her youngest sister who disowned her because her son married a Black woman and had 8 kids with her. She didn’t even show up to her sister’s funeral even though she was well aware that she had died. When I tell people my grandfather was White and that I’m Irish they look at me like they’ve seen a ghost. I hear all the time, but you’re Black. And?
I wonder, if that infamous speech and that movement had not taken place would the Civil Rights Act had been passed? Would segregation still exist in the South? Would race relations be worst today than what they currently are? Yeah, those are questions you have to think about and it should be scary to think about it. I mean hearing stories from my grandfather and grandmother about the chaos that transpired in the South during the 60s, the horror they endured, their parents endured, just wanting the right given by so many others to cast a vote and to be treated fairly.
If there was something that always puzzled me about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was his ability to be nonviolent. This was a man who was beaten, verbally assaulted and had so many horrors endured upon him and he took the higher road. He didn’t combat evil with evil; he took the high road when others went low. It speaks wonders why so many people were scared of this man, because he was the pioneer of what it meant to be civil, to be an American to be someone who looked past race and fought for the equality of all people even those who didn’t look like him.
I want to have that same thought process and thinking as the great Dr. I mean to be part of a protest and to NOT retaliate when people are throwing things at me or being verbally assaulted or any other chaos that tends to transpire, it is a hard pill to swallow. I wonder what he would think of the protests that transpired over the summer and throughout 2020 that became violent, saw the destruction of property and just mayhem erupt. He would be sickened that was not what this man stood for. You don’t react to violence, by being violent, you take the high ground. Yes, that is indeed a difficult pill for many Americans to swallow; it is and we can say a million times that is not the case, but it is people.
Some of us cannot control our emotions and I would just want people to think, “What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say, if I behaved in such a manner?” Would I be fighting for his goals and aspirations? Of course not, I would be doing this man who fought valiantly, who was murdered for me to have equal rights a major disservice. The national holiday has now been coined a day of service, where you help those in need and you give back to your community. That is NOT all I think about when it comes to this holiday which I think too many people overlook. I think of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for.
He fought for equality people; he fought for us to be a better country, to be better people, be understanding, be more loving, accept differences, but if 2020 and 2021 to start has taught us anything, America and Americans NEED to take a hard look at themselves. We have a lot of work to do people, a lot of work, we cannot turn a blind eye to the issue of race and how it makes us uncomfortable. We have to talk about race and where we stand if we want to make improvements in our communities, in our states and the country as a whole.
It is time for us to realize that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so valiantly fought for is not spat on, it’s not overlooked, because if it was, what does that say about us a country? Not good things people.