Posted: 01/19/15 19:43
by Alan Anderson
We celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday on January 19 this year. It is a tribute to a man who worked tirelessly for integration of American society and for the acceptance of Black and other minorities into the main life of American culture. He lived in a time where children of different races went to separate schools; where Blacks couldn't sit in certain restaurants and other public places, and when voting rights were denied based on ability to read or on taking certain tests to qualify to vote. And because no honeymoon suites were available for African-Americans, King and his wife Coretta spent their wedding night at a friend's funeral parlor.
As a result of King's efforts, along with thousands of others, the Civil Rights Law was passed and signed by President Lyndon Johnson. Because of the law many millions of Blacks and other minorities started to become regulars in American society.
Knowing King was associated with this history, it is important to realize today that there is still much to be done to achieve the "dream" he shared with America. It is especially important because some of the progress he fought for has been erased by certain government policies and by new cases/decisions that have come from the Supreme Court. In 2013 the Court altered the law and removed oversight by the Congress to ensure that there were not discriminatory practices that affect the rights of minorities to vote, especially in many southern states. As soon as the law was revised several states rushed to pass laws requiring IDs for voting, eliminating same day registrations, and made it harder for the elderly, the poor, and minorities to register and vote. So, some of the progress King fought for has been eroded by current practices. We still are better off than in the 1950s and 60s, when there was outright segregation, but there are many instance of abuses that need to be addressed.
Certainly issues with recent shootings in several cities of Black children and teens/young adults have raised issues of civil rights and equal treatment. There is an renewed loss of faith in the judicial and police systems that need to be addressed and repaired. And the income and opportunity gaps between people of color and Whites continues to be an issue, especially as wealthy individuals seem to be acquiring larger and larger shares of wealth and financial power.
The message of the MLK birthday is clear: we need to celebrate our successes and remain vigilant that past problems don't emerge and generate new challenges. We need to continue to move forward, realizing that there is underlying racism and hostility toward equality by some in society. MLK Day is a time to rejoice, reflect, and restore the momentum that characterized the efforts of the 1950s and 60s. Thanks to Dr. King and his community for helping to ensure that America doesn't forget it moral goals and values of peace, non-violence, and dedication to justice and equality for all.