We've Got a Long Way to Go
How Martin Luther King Jr. Day Impacts Me
This website is something I have been looking for for a long time, however it is hard to figure out the first story to write. I have many views and passions but its intimidating to try to portray all of those into one story or "the story." As an introduction, my first story, and since it is Black History Month I am going to share an essay, that I won second place in, at a contest at Macomb Community College in Clinton Township, Michigan. The context of the essay/story is continually existing racism, white privilege, and acknowledging both so we can progress further in Dr. King's accomplishments and beautiful, relevant, and meaningful words.
"We've Got a Long Way to Go."
"I have a dream." A statement that has sounded with so many people since the death of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4th, 1968. What I hope, when I reflect on my own wants for my brothers and sisters who share the planet with me, is that I will see my dream come true as well when my time here is done. I know Dr. King was able to see a glimpse of his, but through him I realize we share a similar if not the same dream. All men were created equal, so lets make that the case. Shouldn't that be everyone's dream too? Our altruistic want for the well-being of everyone? Unfortunately, past and even present shows otherwise.
I interpret Dr. King's message in the sense that we are all human beings, our hearts do not beat differently based on skin color, race, or religion. As a human being, I am inspired and find it my civil duty to take care of other human beings regardless of physical and cultural attributes...and I am thankful for a figure like Dr. King. He was a citizen activist, baptist minister, social activist, and a powerful mind with a message of love, acceptance, freedom and peace... a message that strikes a cord in my heart. When I compare life for me today, to when Dr. King was actively fighting for equal rights I am beyond thankful that we have come such a long way, but it is another reminder that we've got a long way to go. Somedays, I become so discouraged at the state of the world and our own American society. Have we learned nothing from those who marched hand in hand? And all that was accomplished through civil disobedience? They fought hatred with love, and won. That victory still reigns true today, for when that third Monday in January rolls around I am privileged enough, and grateful, to have work and school off and get to give back to my community. For me, it is a great honor to do something in the name of Dr. King on his day. Again, the joy does not come from staying at home and relaxing. No, it comes from being able to be in the same institution with people of all skin colors and backgrounds with the same goal of helping those who need it.
I was obviously not alive during the civil rights movement but I am lucky enough to experience the progress and outcome that ensued. About 55 years later, give or take, I can be friends with whoever I want, I can go out to dinner with whoever I want, my friends and I do not need to worry about hiding, being threatened, or going to segregated institutions. Dr. King has impacted me personally and individually with the beautiful multi-cultural friendships I have made here at Macomb Community College, it brings forth a lot of emotions to be able to physically live out a dream of his. However, we have a long way to go. Again, about 55 years later even though we do not have "colored" schools, there are still eyes that are clouded by hate. Yes, I can date whomever and go wherever with whoever... but the cold looks and bad talk still come. Threats still happen and yes, racism exists. A hatred... for another human being, for no justified reason.
Dr. King referenced Abraham Lincoln and The "Emanicipation Proclomation" in his "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28th, 1963. "But one hundred years later the Negro is still not free." And that has haunted me ever since I heard it, it send chills down my spine but also ignited something in me. Of course, throughout my life I have not been met with the same inspiration and emotional movement from the lines in Dr. King's speech. There will always be those who are misguided or misinformed and instead of fighting fire with fire, Martin Luther King Jr. has shown me to fight that fire with love, education, and kindness. In time, that will be the water to extinguish the unnecessary fire. Instead of letting those who hold us back get me down, I will do unto others and try be a living embodiment of how far we have come and how much more we can accomplish.
I have never experienced the horrors that are hatred or discrimination that took place and still take place today, because of Dr. King I do not turn a blind eye and I will not be tolerant of hatred. I will use my privilege to be a voice and to stand up for what is inherently right. We are little more than halfway to our own 100 year mark too since Dr King's reference in his speech; the difference being there is freedom but we still have a lot more to do. That everyone still needs to do. Let us keep that dream alive for hundreds and hundreds of years to come, do not let Martin Luther King Jr. Day end at midnight on that Monday... celebrate all year 'round. We have every opportunity to utilize the actual holiday, but let the message spread. Like I already said, it is the day I have no excuse to not get out there and take care of people and spread a message of love. Once class resumes and the 9-5 work repetition begins again, let it always be there. "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we're free at last!" Let that freedom be universal for other fellow human beings 365 days a year.
As the title of the book says Why We Can't Wait by Dr. King, this particular title he chose means something literal to me. Non-violence and change, not waiting around. We become too comfortable or content at the current state we live in, but there is nothing to be content about. They say there is a time and place for everything but I find that to be an excuse, and Dr. King has demonstrated single handedly that you do not wait for the "right" time and place. You act on injustice when you see injustice, and he has motivated me to do the same. As stated prior, one day it will be 100 years since King's movement and many sit idly by hoping things will be different then. People hope that even in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years things will be different. I am sure Dr. King felt the same way, but he didn't wait around to see. If he did, who knows how history would have played out. Dr. King's great mind was a catalyst for equality. He has impacted me in the sense of I am done waiting, I will get out and do all I have the ability to do. Whether I can impact one life, or many lives, and speak out against injustice, that makes it all the worth while. There should be no reasoning as to why we should wait, I take King's words and apply them to my life today. I am not going to wait for the next big thing to happen that will benefit society, rather try to help build the bricks in the foundation along the way. And imagine, just imagine, if every did the same just how King envisioned. Nothing changes over night, but if we all share a similar dream... and that dream is a powerful one that benefits us all we can all make a difference. The impact has always been clear: see through eyes unclouded by hate and injustice. Don't like the dream die with one great mind rather let it fuel thousands of great minds. Live for the ones who fought for the oppressed and mistreated, never let the same injustices happen again.