Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day. In America, we acknowledge this day, this three-day weekend, as a reminder of the importance of equality between everyone no matter the color of your skin or where your parents and grandparents came from. This day is a reminder of the significance of freedom. I am not talking about the freedom to go where you please, but the freedom to speak up for what you believe is wrong. After all that has transpired during this year (2021) so far, as well as everything that has happened in 2020 and previous years, it is even more important that we remember this freedom, as well as this day. We must remember that Martin Luther King Jr Day is not just a respite from school and work, but a day to remember what happens when people choose hate over love, what happens when we let the government influence our perception of other people, and the strength and unity of people. We must remember Martin Luther King Jr Day, and everything that it stands for, particularly today in 2021.
Why Martin Luther King Jr Day Is Even More Important Today
Martin Luther King Jr was a leader of the American civil rights movement. He is particularly famous for his “I have a dream” speech in which he speaks about a world in which people would one day no longer judge each other for their appearance. Instead, people would judge on who they are on the inside. He spoke with charisma and good grace about his hopes and dreams for this country. He said that despite the end of slavery, freedom was still only ever a concept and wasn’t fully attained. This was in 1963.
Fifty years later, I sit here on Martin Luther King, Jr Day, listening to his infamous “I have a dream” speech. I’m sure when he first spoke those words out loud to a crowd of 250,000 people in Washington DC, he would never have guessed that we would still have negative issues with race in America in the twenty-first century. About 150 years after the abolishment of American slavery and 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and we are still experiencing systematic racism in almost every facet of life in America.
Just last year, millions of Americans marched with masks during the Coronavirus pandemic in the aftermath of George Floyd. This incident was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. It certainly wasn’t the first time that we saw evidence of police brutality. But last year, something broke and people become more outraged to speak up and do something about it. They marched to protest against police brutality against people of color. They marched to protest against the injustice of it all. The riots that took place in the middle of 2020 show that America still has a long way to go to attain racial equality for everyone.
And then, on January 6, 2021, some people stormed the Capitol buildings, creating havoc and destruction. I have never before felt so ashamed of this country than in that moment. People spoke out against the injustice of the difference in how the government dealt with this particular form of protest against what had happened in 2020. This sparked more debate and protests and calls for impeachment.
It may seem as if America is the country of the free, where dreams can be made possible, but the existence of racism lurks just under the surface. It can be ignored but it can’t be forgotten. Until we stop seeing people by the color of the skin, this issue will continue to follow us in America.
I have always said that making the color of the skin the most paramount thing is a terrible thing. We often judge people by the color of their skin. It may be something as innocent as what you are or where your parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents are from. We not only label people as a particular race, but we then create a series of assumptions about who they are based solely on their skin color.
Even if the assumptions seem trivial and small, such as being good at math or sports because of your presumed race, it is still a terrible thing to use stereotypes to define who someone is. Most often these assumptions are not correct. Most often they only serve as an unrealistic standard that people may strive to be. Instead of making assumptions, we should look at people with a blank slate, with no judgements made from the color of the skin.
I know I have said previously about how proud I was to have a racial label because of the community, but there is bad in having labels as well. When we let these judgments and assumptions influence how we treat people, then it becomes a terrible thing. So, how do we manage to balance this need for community, while also not putting people into racial categories and thus setting them up to experience unwanted prejudices?
Honestly, I don’t think there is a way to balance it. I think we have to either choose to be so divided, and yet together within, or to erase all of these racial lines and just be people. But how can that even be possible? How can we go ahead and erase years of racial history and simply forget? How can we unite as one when there are people who strive to keep us apart? We can’t.
So, the only thing to do is to simply move forward. The only thing that we can do is for everyone to treat people as who they are without judging someone by the color of their skin. We need to simply look past that and look at what is on the inside. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which country your ancestors came from. What matters is what kind thing you said or did to the person next to you. What matters is how you treat people.
I think that when people can finally stop making assumptions and stop hating someone, then perhaps we might finally have a chance at being united without anything standing between us. When there is nothing dividing us, then perhaps we can be together.