a site by jeremy

you know, that one guy

Dream Unrealized

Today, we in the United States celebrate the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Generally this means that Facebook and Twitter are filled with quotes and platitudes espousing Dr. King’s convictions on race and equality. Many take the time to pat the US on its back for overcoming the evils of racism. Before pulling a muscle with such congratulations, I encourage you to consider a few points.

This country has an embarrassing record towards its fellow man: Native Americans, women, Japanese, Africans, Mexicans, Muslims, homosexuals, and so many more. Think about why you quote Dr. King today. Less than 44 years ago, he was murdered for so brazenly suggesting during his lifetime that he and fellow African-Americans be allowed to urinate in the same restroom, drink from the same fountain, attend the same schools, or receive equal pay for equal work as those who were white. Again, less than 44 years ago in this United States, a man was the target of violence for the mere idea that skin pigment should not differentiate the rights of men.

I know what some are thinking, “Jeremy, that is all true but we have overcome such behavior and are leading this country into a future of enlightenment.” Are we really?

In 1998, James Byrd, Jr. was dragged to death in a racially inspired crime. Nooses and race were again married in 2006 and 2007. In 2011, a Cincinnati landlord posted a “whites only” sign at an apartment complex pool. Broader problems still exist. Racial discrepancies in education no doubt lead to discrepancies in income and crime.

“Yes, Jeremy, but these areas are improving. These things take time. We have learned our lesson.” Have we really?

While these areas are certainly improving, consider again our country’s history. Native Americans were marginalized, discriminated against, and killed for being different. We “learned our lesson.” Asian-Americans were marginalized, discriminated against, and killed for being different. We “learned our lesson.” Jews were marginalized, discriminated against, and killed for being different. We “learned our lesson.” European-Americans were marginalized, discriminated against, and killed for being different. We “learned our lesson.” African-Americans were marginalized, discriminated against, and killed for being different. We “learned our lesson.” Latin-Americans were marginalized, discriminated against, and killed for being different. We “learned our lesson.” Now homosexual- and Muslim-Americans are being marginalized, discriminated against, and killed for being different.

See the pattern? The US has routinely used religion and nationalism out of context in order to justify its actions against those who are different. In each case, we proclaim our understanding of why it was wrong and vow to move past such behavior. As recent as this year, such proclamations have proven empty.

I write this not to demean the US or belittle the ideas of people like Dr. King. It is my hope that instead of quote-grabbing one day a year to advocate ideas that are otherwise largely ignored, people will expand the ideas into a plan to truly change our society. In fact, that is exactly why Dr. King should be quoted. He didn’t just have a dream, he had a plan. That is why he died and that is why you should quote him. Until then, his dream will remain as it exists currently - unrealized.

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