Opinion by Rob Andrilla
As January marches on, we move further to the third Monday of the month, a national holiday to celebrate and commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his struggle to end segregation and prejudice in America.
We all have been taught about King’s vision for an America unbridled by discrimination. In his most famous speech at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial he declared his unrelenting desire for a universal end to racism, immortalized in the line, “I have a dream that my 4 little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Dr. King’s nonviolent approach to eradicating prejudice is one of modern history’s greatest examples of tireless grace in the face of hateful and vicious opposition. In his nonviolent quest to end racial oppression in America, the man we celebrate was incarcerated at least 29 times, beaten, once stabbed, bombed, and constantly threatened with violence and death. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
While King’s example of peaceful opposition inspired civil reforms and was in a way the beginning of the end of racism and discrimination in our country, the struggle is not over. We certainly have made improvements in the 50 years since King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
To many of us, however, King’s impassioned orations are a thing of the past. They are seen in black and white footage as a part of the 1960s from which the world has moved on. Rather than see the man’s ideas and actions as a part of the past to be analyzed through a historical lens, we should consider the relevance of his words today.
When talking about race, some of us dismiss prejudice as something our parents or grandparents dealt with on a daily basis, but the fact of the matter is that it is still very much a part of our world in more covert ways. Our first black president is now in his second term of office and black culture is more celebrated and imitated than it ever has been in America’s past.
However, no matter how many years pass since King died for the struggle, his themes carry as much conviction as ever.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is one that is not limited to any one group, color, or population. His words encourage equality and acceptance among all peoples of the world. As we look back on Martin Luther King Day, take a moment to consider how the world around us was impacted by this man’s life, both in what he accomplished and in what we have yet to accomplish before the day he spoke of when “…all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”