Martin Luther King, Jr., made a speech 50 years ago today that still rings in our ears. His dream for us and this country didn’t die with him, thankfully. It’s turned into one of the most important speeches and it didn’t even come together until the last minute. He even improvised there at the time of the speech. There were more than 200,000 people in attendance and Dr. King improvised. Amazing.
But we cannot think that because there isn’t “legal” segregation that somehow the work is over or complete by any means. It’s not. There is still work to be done; mountains to climb; obstacles to overcome. Visit any southern state sometime and you will see it, but it’s not just in the south.
I realize the Ku Klux Klan may not parade around town in their white robes and matching hats, but to think that racism is dead is to kid yourself. There was a time when it seemed to have vanished, but it became what was called “institutional” racism. It also appears that acts of violence and vandalism are on the rise again also, though it never really went away either. There is information floating around out there that various hate groups are working to rebuild themselves and gaining strength via the Internet and social media sites. It wouldn’t be surprising to hear that – it’s certainly a quick way to connect a lot of people.
We are still prone to racism and prejudice. There’s become such a strong apathy to the use of certain hate words, claiming “it’s just a word, don’t give it power.” To that I say – “if it’s just a word, why not replace it with something that doesn’t have a history of hate?” To me, people may claim they’re just words but why else would n***er or the new version n**ga be used, if not to portray a negative image? It doesn’t matter who it’s applied to, it’s a hate word – it was then and it is now. This goes for all hate words for all races included wet***k, s**c, wh*** tr***, b***er, etc. There’s a so called claim to owning these words but that’s ridiculous. They’re still used for the sole purpose of creating and maintaining negative images. As long as hate is in our language, it will continue to exist in our hearts. I can’t speak for him, but I feel fairly confident Dr. King wouldn’t approve of such use of n****** or n***a in any form.
I’m not above being able to laugh at myself or my background, but comedy is similar to words in that it’s a slippery slope. Yes, certain cultures have certain tendencies and we can laugh at those things, but that can quickly become a way to categorize and label people. Once you do this, it’s not far from prejudging someone. Prejudging someone isn’t far from having racist views. I wouldn’t say to never be able to laugh at yourself or not be able to make the occasional joke, but it’s definitely worth being cognizant of the potential impact of letting jokes and comedy become a runaway train.
Racism has never been dead and now, it seems, it may actually be making something of a comeback, if you will. With all the anti-immigration sentiment in the air, the first black American President, who in the eyes of many is failing; and quite frankly, apathy, it all leads to the ease of which hate can rise again. Because many feel President Obama is failing, it’s easy for those with prejudices to fall back on well it’s because he’s black, or it’s easy to apply his perceived failings to all black people (I say perceived because this isn’t a blog about politics… at least not this time). This isn’t true or fair to anyone.
It’s easy to get caught up and see the few illegal immigrants who get into major legal trouble and want to label them all, but again, that’s not true or fair. It may be true the majority of immigrants right now are Latin-American (not all Spanish speakers are Mexican – just be aware of that). Granted, just being here without a Green Card or Visa makes them illegal, but there’s more to this story also. It’s easy to want to blame them for our economic issues, but there are reports many are going home because of the poor economy. Google it. You’ll find it. Besides, wasn’t this country founded on immigration? Perhaps there’s a middle ground to find here that doesn’t include hate or prejudice. You can’t go around selling “The American Dream” and then not expect people to want to move here to find it for themselves.
Let’s not forget the recent uprising in women’s issues. There appears to be a resurgence in hate against women. Dr. King may not have specifically spoke on women’s rights issues, but he was for the rights all people. His dream is widespread and we all need to take a part in making it happen.
If or when people stop caring and stop paying attention to the issues, then it would be easy for King’s beautiful dream to fail. But it hasn’t and I hope it never will, as long as there are those who still believe and work toward that goal.
To me the key is keeping the dream alive is education. There are many ways being informed helps. The first simply being, it helps prevent prejudice to begin with. A good part of what makes racism what it is, is ignorance. People almost always fear things they don’t know or understand. The easy example is with animals. Often people find out about a creature they’ve long feared, while the fear may not go away completely, there’s a new understanding reached.
Google defines racism, a noun, as: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior to another race or races.
Belief is defined as: an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
Prejudice is defined as: preconceived notion that is not based on reason or an actual experience.
To me, what this all says is that hate is taught, not something innate. Children aren’t born to hate, they are taught to hate. If hate can be taught, so can acceptance; so can love. I would say tolerate, but we can do so much better than tolerance. Why settle?
I want to include a couple of items for you all. The first is an article from the Southern Poverty Law Center. They are a wonderful way to get informed on what’s happening with hate groups across the country. I highly recommend checking in with them and educate yourself. Part of prevention and eventual rid of hate, is to be informed. Don’t turn a blind eye.
Please… also relisten to the “I have a dream” speech. It truly is wonderful in more ways than one.