Today we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., a man who dared to believe that non-violent protests against the segregation and mistreatment of Negros (now called African-Americans) would change the way they were treated. I began to reflect on what Martin Luther King Day means to me.
My reflections started when my son asked me a question earlier: “Mommy, why do you always care so much about what others do or what happens to others? To me that’s like minding someone else’s business.” So Mommy (that’s me) thought hard about what my son said. “Is it really so? Is it really someone else’s business?” I had to ask myself the question before I answered him.
I said, “That’s because that’s how Mommy is. I really care about what happens to others.” Then I went into a mini diatribe (poor thing) as I mentioned how others’ actions affect us. “It may be someone else’s right to smoke, but if they smoke around you or me we both get sick. It may also be someone else’s decision not to wash their hands after using the restroom, but if they go and make my lunch and I eat it, I can get very sick.” I also mentioned the spread of the HIV virus; if someone has the disease and decides to spread it to others, their problem now becomes someone else’s problem.
So was the thought process of Martin Luther King Jr. Many may ask (even today) why did he bother to take on such a huge endeavor (such as leading marches that sometimes ended in brutal beatings, hose-downs and police dogs) if he was not even certain that the marches would change anything? Why didn’t he “mind his own business”?
I think he bothered because he genuinely cared about human relations. It must have gnawed at his spirit to know that there was such a great disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots”; the whites and blacks; the educated and the poor. Many may even chime in and say not much has changed since the days of the marches and protests, but I disagree. Some change has taken place. African-Americans can now vote without fear. They can also speak their minds on issues publicly without fear of being lynched or beaten senseless. We can drink at the same water fountain, use the same restroom facilities and enter public buildings through the same doors. Children can attend any school their parents can afford to pay for (or where scholarships and grants are awarded) and most government assistance is available to everyone who fits into a certain financial bracket. We also elected our first African-American president to the White House in November 2008.
But I will acknowledge that inequalities still exist today, as not all school districts are created equal. I also learned recently that standardized tests are not created to accommodate African-American children, which would explain the higher percentages of failure within that race. Many people of other races may even complain about the “accommodations” that African-Americans receive; they may be viewed as reverse discrimination. Health care is not readily available to many disadvantaged African-American families, so preventable/treatable diseases and lack of health education burdens the country with higher instances of incurable/terminal diseases that must be treated in emergency rooms under charity care coverage.
I pray that more of us (no matter what race) will see that we are our brother’s keeper. If we do not see a need to extend a helping hand to lift up our brother or sister, our future generations will suffer. Just like recycling and going green, stamping out inequality must become one of our main societal goals, as it will help to keep us alive for generations to come. Funding for health research, funding for educational opportunities for disadvantaged children and full support of any venture that unites us as one and does not divide us into racial silos will benefit us, our children and their children.