I know what Martin Luther King Day really means to all of us – no school, no work, and relax. Sort of like Labor Day, but in January. We don’t know exactly what to celebrate as this is no Thanksgiving or Christmas, but we do know that we are allowed to do absolutely nothing.
Or we could go to the museum that celebrates civil rights movements and honor the great man himself: Martin Luther King Jr. This is probably not a terrible idea considering that too many people think that Martin Luther and MLK were the same person. If you don’t, please look this up: it may save you from numerous embarrassing moments in the future.
The other day, I was sitting in class and I overheard a conversation behind me. As it needs to be understood, my studies are filled with predominantly white males. Before you try to call me out, I’m not racist, but rather am just telling the facts of a demographic population. When we talk about affirmative action or gender rights, I will not argue the fact that there isn’t equality now, because it’s true. However, this conversation I was listening to was somewhat disturbing to me and made me realize how ignorant people are, no matter how old they are. The minute I heard this sentence, I could feel my chest sink in anguish.
Racism doesn’t exist anymore.
I want to use the birthday of a man who has fought for civil liberties and equal rights not to celebrate, but to reflect. If you think about it, it has only been about 50 years since the end of segregation…that’s only half a century. A little over a hundred years ago, slaves were still being whipped in crop fields. On a huge timeline of events, these emancipation events are considered to be incredibly recent. Hence, racism still does exist, despite what these guys said in class. And if you disagree, I advise you to take another look at society and watch what’s happening.
Are we progressing? Perhaps, but so many people think that means racism is extinguishing as well. We have more equal rights, note that I did not say that they are equal yet. The problems are imbedded in both the legal system and the societal framework. As people who have been through American history in high school, we know that both of these factors take a combination of time and effort to change. Mindsets must change and values must completely shift in order for racism to be completely gone.
That being said, it is not impossible to transcend racism or any other stereotypical issue in society. It takes individuals, not necessarily leaders, to have the courage to stand up to those who are racist or are propagating the values of inequality. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a born leader. Rosa Parks was not a born leader. Heck, even Hitler was not a born leader. These are individuals and people who wanted to change the world. They became leaders because people listened to them.
When people listen, social movements and progression move faster. We live in a world that is shifting towards democracy. Just take a look at the younger population: with technologies and diversity, our values have changed to fight the new challenges that approach us today. That goes for the next generation and the next generation and the next generation after that .Now it’s no longer just black v. white. It’s black v. white v. Asian v. Latino v. every culture in the world. It’s part of how we identify ourselves, creating the question of whether it is even possible for us to even accept different attributes of one another.
Despite MLK’s efforts and incredible success though, is it even possible to overcome racism?
That’s a question for us to ask ourselves.