Honoring Dr. King

As we get closer to Martin Luther King Day, I believe he would be proud of the strides we have made in the 45 years after his death. Minorities have accomplished much. Today we have a voice — a voice that, judging by the last election, is determined to be heard no matter how others attempt to silence it.

At the time of Dr. King’s untimely death, we were still struggling to find that voice.
How sad that his assassination helped us to begin to find it. If you look around today, you will see that minorities have made substantial gains in nearly every category you can think of on the local and world stages. We hold prominent postions in places that we weren’t even allowed to enter fifty years ago. Hell, we even elected a black president. How many of you out there ever thought you would see that in this country? We have advocated for LGBTQ folks to have the right to marry anyone they choose to, and we’ve fought alongside them as they demanded the same rights as everyone else. They now have a seat or two in our nation’s capital. Coming out is now regarded with a sense of pride and not of disgust. We all have had so many accomplishments, and there is so much to be proud of.

But then, Martin Luther King would see that we still have a long way to go. Sadly, we are still divided along social and racial lines, as we have seen with the aftermath of the presidential election. Some people, no matter where they are in life — famous, infamous, or just the person down the street — seem to want to hang on to their old ways and their old prejudices. Also, we still have the problem of homelessness, something that Dr. King was fighting against long before it became commonplace.
Although Dr. King’s life was ended by gunfire, many of us still live by the gun — even after the tragedies of holiday mall shootings and movie theater massacres. Now we can’t even send our little ones to school without worrying about whether they will come home or not. We’re still demonizing people and things that we don’t understand, as evidenced by the way we treat the mentally ill. Whenever one of these mass shootings occurs, we are so willing to blame it on people who are unbalanced. Yet I know many mentally ill folk, and they don’t go around killing little kids.

Politically, we are so bitterly divided that the politicians we elect can’t get anything done, because they can’t or won’t agree on anything. Case in point: a few days ago, Congress was all set to vote on aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Many of those people lost their homes, loved ones, valuable possessions, and more. That all took place in November, before Election Day, so many people in New York and New Jersey spent the holidays in a state of emergency. But instead of voting on the Hurricane Sandy aid bill right away, it was held up. Many, including House Speaker John Boehner, claimed it was because of all the fiscal cliff talks. That’s only half true; the reason why it was held up was that some within the Republican Party were upset that most of the Northeast Republicans actually voted for President Obama and Boehner’s fiscal cliff compromise. Have you ever heard of something so petty?

Though we have made great strides, there is still a long way to go. Happy Birthday, Dr. King.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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