Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Weekly Treasures: I Have a Dream...and Some Thoughts on MLK Jr. Day

As an American in the US, I observe a federal holiday on the Monday closest to January 15th, in honor of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.  In my current job, this is commemorated by not making me go to work.  (Yay!)  However, this day is much more important than just a free vacation day, as Dr. King fought and gave his life for the civil rights I now enjoy as an African-American U.S. citizen.

Many people seem to have arrived at the unfortunate and misguided conclusion that since Barack Obama was elected U.S. President in 2008, that Dr. King's dream has been fully realized.  While this is a beautiful and noble sentiment, it's quite untrue.  I encourage you to reconsider Dr. King's actual words:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Surely, we have come a long, long way since the 1960s.  We've come much farther than my grandparents and parents ever dreamed they would see in their lifetimes.  However, I do not believe we have fully realized that dream that Dr. King so eloquently defined.  Many still judge and find themselves judged for no other reason than they are Black, Hispanic, Native American, Middle-Eastern, too dark, too light, etc.  Racial profiling is still a problem, and the disparity between minorities and whites struggling in poverty, achieving in our educational system, and wasting away in our penal system clearly demonstrates that the color of one's skin is still a factor in many people's everyday lives.

Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.  Consider that it would be 1986 before he was recognized with a federal holiday and the year 2000 before all 50 U.S. states observed it.  Consider that even in the past week there has been controversy over comments made by an elected governor that he would not be celebrating the holiday.  Consider the recent birther movements that have tried to undermine the duly elected president of the United States because of the Kenyan (African) and Islamic heritage in one half of his genetic makeup.  Consider that affirmative action programs are still in place across the nation, and in my opinion, are still necessary.  Consider that there are dozens and dozens of hate groups still operating across the United States, with anywhere from 1 to 66 groups operating in each of our 50 states as of 2009.  There is no such thing as a post-racial America at this time.

I say all of this to say that while I am grateful that we have made such progress in the last 50 years, I do not think we should allow ourselves to hang a "Mission Accomplished" banner over the late Dr. King's message.  Let's remember where we've come from, but also continue to push forward to get to where we need to go.  Let's educate our children about the important figures of the African-American/Black Civil Rights Movement, so that they understand why this matters.  Let's do something more to honor Dr. King than simply enjoying a day off from work and going on about our lives.

Here's a treasury I made on Etsy this past Martin Luther King Day:

Thanks for taking a look at the work of these talented artists.  Feel free to leave a comment on the treasury or here on the blog to give your response to this collection and the message I attempted to convey with it.

Until next time,


Linda said...

Very good points to consider!