The menace of Hurricane Irene postponed the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C., but it allowed for more time to absorb the enormity of the event–and reflect on the man and the dream
The Civil Rights icon has become the first black American to receive the honor, a validation of his dream of equality for all men and women.
Dr. King’s vision for American society remains that–a vision– buffered by remarkable advances not even he would have imagined if he were alive. Yet there seems to be a component of what he espoused that has become tainted. Do we really value character above all, or are we stagnated by the creation of artificial barriers based upon skin color, gender, and economic status?
It’s odd to come to that conclusion considering the nation’s first black president is about to begin a re-election campaign; black and brown Americans are completing college educations in record numbers, and there is a larger segment of Americans of all colors holding wealth than ever before.
But there is also a flip side: The middle class in America has seen their wealth and economic standing in society dissipate faster today than any time in modern history. The poor are steadily preyed upon, judged more for what they are and are not rather than who they are.
The singular thought behindhas become tainted. King’s vision of togetherness and commonality is being replaced by a message of exploitation, fear, and polemicism. Part of King’s vision was to not fear minute differences between one another– but to embrace them because they weave the fabric of mankind together. It was understanding your own human frailities for what they were and examing your own character so you could best understand others.
We cannot be the post racial society we claim if we are afraid to engage others on issues of race and difference openly and honestly. Avoidance is tantamount to failure, and it is an abrogation of our responsibility as Americans. Dr King’s lens trained intently on us becoming more self-aware–exposing the good and bad inherent in all of us. Only then could we effectively deal with one another with true clarity.
For a society as diverse and rich as ours, it’s incumbent upon us all to divine truth and understanding from division, discrimination and seclusion. Are we still on a path to toward this discovery, or are we lost in bastardizing a dream we can no longer envision?