Monday, January 21, 2013

We honor Dr. King by keeping his dream alive

The fight for equality is a long road faced by many

Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision for America is not yet fully realized. Not when so many still judge a person on their skin color, their gender, or their preference for whom they choose to love.

We have come a long way since 1963, when King made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. But we have a long way to go before the tenets of that speech are fully realized. Roads still lie ahead to be traveled, hearts and minds to be won, before the King’s words ring true in our land.

His vision for America didn’t stop at race -- he fought hard for equality not just among whites and blacks, but for many other people who had been victimized by stigmas and lack of power in society.

I have no doubt in my mind that today, King would be on the side of encouraging rights for others beyond just racial discrimination. His words would be hypocritical were it otherwise. The man who is profiled based upon his skin color, the woman who is passed over for promotion despite having stronger credentials, and the couple who can’t express their love in a legal fashion, all face similar struggles against a wall of unyielding hatred. That wall must come down, their struggles overcome, if we are to call our nation a tolerant and just one.

Should we judge a man based on his color or heritage? Should we discriminate him based on his apparent upbringing, on the stereotypes and lies conjured up by a bigoted few? King lived his life fighting against such ideas, believing that the content of a man’s character, and not his family lineage, should be the sole judgment of who he was.

So true were his words then -- and they remain true today, for classes of people King had yet to fight for before his death.

His struggle in his own time, he knew, would not come easily -- “We are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied, until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

And so it is that, even today, nearly 45 years after his assassination, we still strive to make our nation a nation of equality. The struggles continue, but they are struggles well-worth fighting for, until every person sees justice and is treated fairly.

The “promissory note” that King described and that our founders issued in our nation’s birth promised us a nation that would bestow justice FOR ALL, the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness FOR EVERYONE. And though that promise has taken more than two hundred years to be realized, and is still yet to be fully realized, the path that our nation has taken has shown that the American promise of equality should continue to be our goal.

For what better barometer of equality exists for our nation to have, in terms of how it treats its citizens, than to say, “We shall judge you based on your merits -- based on your personal story, and not that of your skin color”? What better form of judgment is there to have, based on how a person conducts him- or herself, rather than whom they choose to love? What better way to say we truly believe in equality than to pay a person, regardless of gender, a decent and equal wage for the work they have done?

Yes, inequalities still exist -- and they will linger for years to come. But for as long as they exist, we as a just people must resist them. We as a just people must fight for equality, for a day when our children can soundly say that their lives were not affected by the whims and prejudices of the people who surrounded them, but by the actions and abilities that they themselves possessed.

That day will truly be a day when we can celebrate Dr. King’s words and his vision as complete. But until that day comes, we must never stop working towards progress, bringing about justice for all. The fight for equality must live on -- and we honor Dr. King every day that the fight endures.

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