Today is the day where social media is inundated with quotes and pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. His words, his ideals, his dreams, and his sermons had a huge influence on a generation and a people who were struggling to be viewed as equals in a country that had previously enslaved them. He spoke against injustice and painted a picture of a world where everyone is equal and we all have access to the same opportunities. There has been some progress towards that goal. Signs that declare public places are for “whites only.” have gone. There are laws that make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on the color of their skin. There’s definitely still a long way to go. I live in a city that has one of the biggest MLK parades/marches (a marade) in the country. Thousands of people attend and there’s a program at the end with music and speeches and remarks. Typically this also includes some cousin or other relative of MLK who has been flown in to make some remarks about the specialness of this day. The news stations are there and try their best to get all the shots of black people standing next to white people in solidarity and unity for a common purpose. The sad truth is that we still live in a very racially motivated society in the States. Other countries have other systems that make one group of people superior to another group. Discrimination and prejudice happens everywhere–not just in America. I think that these gestures and services and speeches and sermons are great, but what are we doing the other 364 days of the world to advocate for people who can’t do it themselves? MLK did a lot for the movement. He dedicated thousands of hours of time and money to the advancement of a cause he felt was worth fighting for. However, I was reading not too long ago that he also died without a will and his family was in dire financial straits due to the fact that he had given most of his money to the cause. His wife left a promising singing career and also devoted most of her life to the work. His children also became vocal about continuing his legacy but drew enormous salaries from the center names in his honor and mishandled funds that almost bankrupted it. They sued each other for exorbitant amounts of money and publicly disagreed with each other on the best way to preserve their father’s memory. I say all this to say that there’s a need for all of us to recognize that the only way progress can happen is that we address problems on a systemic level.
Alisha, you make some very good points. I agree that issues need to be addressed on a systemic level, however I believe in a more holistic approach. Issues need to me addressed on the micro (personal choices, family) meso (schools, community and faith) and macro (systemic and community/government) levels. Only when we see our people making good choices on all levels we we see lasting, generational changes.