The Content of their Character
On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr gave a speech that today is still recognized as one of the greatest speeches ever. It stirred a nation already fighting ideals of injustice, hatred and racism, providing a true focal point for all of those emotions that were stirred up to hone in on. But how much are we still focused on that message today? Or has that energy and focus been diverted to other purposes that are not about freedom but the restriction of it?
“I have a dream that my four 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.”
I have that dream too. I have never been able to understand the concept of race, or more importantly why anyone would identify negative or positive character traits to something that in my mind doesn’t really exist. And we know now that this view is true, that race is just a social construct we’ve created. Between the knowledge that we all came from the same ancestor to the further understanding of epigenomes and how they alter generational DNA, the reality is that we are all just human beings, our skin color and gender are really just switches in the same DNA strands that we all share.
People are who they are because of who they choose to be, not what color they are. Some people understand this and transcend themselves, no matter what ‘race’ they belong to. Others never get this and choose to identify themselves along these notions of racial divide. They are the poorer individuals, in my opinion, because they block their path between being and becoming with arbitrary limits placed upon themselves by these outdated notions.
Then there are those that want to empower people by reinforcing these ideas of race. That because you belong to this race or that race you are special, different, better. Between the Arian Nation, La Raza and the Nation of Islam, and all others in between, all they are doing is preventing the eventual and necessary step of abandoning the ignorant concept of race.
But worse, because of these individuals who choose the path of hatred and racism, others attempt to solve the situation by engaging in actions that not only accept the notion of race but further limit the very people they want to help by reinforcing the notions that should be stripped away instead.
However, the worst part of all is when these individuals get together and use the power of government to further enforce those ideals, either through misguided attempts to help or as a straight out political power grab. If a program is in place that is focused on helping black men, simply for the fact that they are black, then aren’t we telling them that they need that help? That they can’t do it on their own? That the deck is too stacked against them and they are powerless to fight beyond it?
I see commentary on Barrack Obama concerning his race and how he is faring with ‘white voters’ and ‘black voters’. Are these the questions we really need to be asking each other or focusing on? Today on CNN I saw a conversation about how his mention of Ronald Reagan was going to cost him with ‘black voters’ because Reagan was not well liked by them. Are these ‘black voters’ all of the same mind now? Do they all see history and policy the same way, as if racial traits cause people to think one way or another?
After Obama won the Iowa caucus, CNN (again) spent nearly an hour talking about how a largely white state voted for a black candidate. This should be news? It should be the normal occurrence of the day. By focusing on that aspect of his win, how much time was taken away from the real news that his message was one that resonated with people and they had bought in to. Is it really that surprising to so many people that a white person might actually vote for a black man? Haven’t we moved beyond that childish nonsense years ago? There are black people in elected office all over the country at the state and federal level, why is a black president such a controversial topic?
In that same segment I also saw an interview with a black man who said that he had never voted before because none of the candidates could understand the plight of the black man. But Obama could? Really? Does anyone really see Obama as knowing what a poor black man growing up in the ghetto deals with? And should we be focusing on a racist view like this viewer has at all, that only someone of the same color could understand the hardships of his individual life, and that a person of the same color WOULD understand the hardships of his individual life just because he had the same color himself?
Only when we start treating each and every human being as individuals will the notion of race start to erode. Only when we abandon the policies of racial reinforcement will our policies start to work towards helping people, not racial groups. We need to stop asking what race people belong to on our census surveys. We need to quit seeing people of different races as something other than parts of ourselves, as human brothers. If we find people violating their rights, for whatever reason, be it race or gender or because they have red hair, or whatever arbitrary difference they may have, we should step in and stop it. But beyond that, trying to fix something that requires a change of heart and mind by enacting policies that perpetuate those very notions is an exercise in futility.
This is, IMO, the essence of what MLK was telling us in this speech, the very nature of freedom and how we should treat each other, not as members of groups but as individuals. That we should look beyond the color, into the character of the man, and judge him on that. In our minds we should not see or care what specific flips are switched on an individual’s DNA strand, it is not what he should be judged or viewed upon.
And I have a dream that one day our government will stop using the old power of racial disharmony to continue the mindset in our children and further generations to come and finally say that enough is enough. From this day forward, we will only see people as individuals and not try to pigeonhole them into any arbitrary racial category.