Monday, January 19, 2015

MLK Day: Celebrate successes, strive for more change in society

Much work remains to make King's Dream a reality

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. For too many of us it's simply a day off, a time to catch up on personal business and to maybe sleep in a few extra hours.

Many others take this holiday much more seriously, commemorating it as a day to celebrate a great man and Civil Rights hero. Speeches and events across the nation exemplify what King stood for and why this day was created in his honor.

Has America changed much since 1963, when King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or since his assassination in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee? Codified law has certainly given people of color more equality. Outright discrimination, in employment, housing and other realms, is illegal, and rightfully so.

But muted discrimination remains prevalent. In the past, racism was a clear aspect of a person's character. People were openly stating they were for segregation in schools, and that they preferred their daughters to marry nice, white men. These days blatant racism has been exchanged for more subtle tactics. A person might not get hired because of their skin color, or may be given different treatment in a court of law because of their heritage, whether it's acknowledged out loud or not.

Sometimes racism is part of a person's conscious behavior. Other times it's a subtle feature that they themselves may not even realize they have. Regardless, much work for the nation remains.

King's dream was for his children to one day be able to live in a world where they could stand hand-in-hand with other children of varying shades of skin color. His dream was that a person's character, not their physical attributes, would determine their standing in society.

It's naive to think that we've reached that dream -- even in Madison much is left to be desired. We've made progress for sure, and it shouldn't be overlooked. We celebrate those successes today in honor of King. Tomorrow, the work continues to make his dream a reality.

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