February 1999 - Volume 2 - Issue 2
" ... from the snow capped mountains of Colorado ... I have a dream"
Immortal words spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr. which echoed through Washington and the Nation on that arresting day in 1963. Perhaps the most remarked upon and monumental American speech of 20th century, it demanded recognition and rights for all of our citizens. At a time, ironically, when America was the glistering democratic poster child for the world, yet we choose to segregate a tenth of our population to unequal and unfair treatment under the law. We turned our cheek to lynchings and rioting, we refused to comprehend that separate rarely equates to equal.
I have stood before the Woolworth's counter, now immortalized in the halls of the American History Museum in Washington, DC. How can such an inanimate object evoke such history and emotion, I ask myself. Then I remember Bull Connor and George Wallace, the fire-hoses and attack dogs. All that venomous attention over a man simply getting a meal.
As we prepare for the next millennium, let us reflect a moment on race relations in the United States over the last decade of this century. The one thing that sticks out in my mind has been the sound bite of "a color-blind society". Personally, I do not want to live in a society blind to color; imagine if there weren't hues of blue, green, red and yellow. Our diversities are what makes us the county that we are. Our ethnic heritages contribute to an experience unlike any other in the world.
Perhaps the most remarkable change to take place in racial attitudes has been the incorporation of African-American history into our classrooms. Once limited to a few paragraphs on slavery, many American textbooks now embrace the contributions of all our citizens. Was Eli Whitney any less talented or creative than Benjamin Franklin? Ingenuity is ingenuity. All children need to know that they are capable of excellence. Role-models that emulate similarities--male or female, rich or poor, black or white-- spark attachment and aspiration. From the great, the infamous, the dubious, Americans of all colors and genders have contributed to our history. How truly remarkable it is that finally our children are learning about them.
Has Dr. King's dream been fulfilled? Have we reached racial equality in the United States? No, unfortunately not, but we have come a long way. That metaphorical "table" Dr. King referred to is now seated with many nationalities, colors and cultures. Awareness and respect of each other is more evident than ever before in our history. And Dr. King has been bestowed one of the greatest honors-a day to reflect and march in his memory and legacy.
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