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By Tom McDonald
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Opinion: Good moment to reflect on King

 

Last updated 1/19/2021 at 3:26pm



If there was ever a moment to reflect on the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this is that moment.

There’s a good reason why we created a federal holiday to honor this fallen civil rights leader. He led us to our better selves by taking on an issue older than this nation itself.

Racism is deeply, deeply rooted in America and yet King led a movement that permanently disrupted its power over us. Among the changes the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s brought in was a popular acknowledgement that all people, every last one of us, are equal in the eyes of God and should therefore be equal in the eyes of the law.

Quickly, his movement outgrew racial inequalities. It was an awakening for many other people who felt excluded from the freedoms our nation was founded upon. At that time, Black Power and the Chicano Movement were rising up to take on the institutionalized racism of that time; women were being re-energized in their fight for equality in the home and workplace; and Gay Rights was finding a voice of its own, along with many other marginalized groups. It was a time when, instead of just tolerating our differences, we began to acknowledge and even celebrate the diversity of our nation.

Of course, Martin Luther King didn’t singlehandedly spur this national awakening. In the Civil Rights Movement alone there were countless heroes while El Movimiento had leaders like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta taking on other related injustices on the American landscape, and feminists like Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis took on cultural stereotypes and political imbalances in ways that continue to reverberate in this 21st century world.

So here it is 2021 and what do we see? A bunch of racists raising their ugly heads in an insurrection attempt, forcing us to see, once again, just how sick and divided our nation really is. We see rising tensions, the threat of violence, even the hint of an impending civil war, suggesting that King and his message of equality and justice has again been suppressed. But that’s not altogether true.

The fact is, we’ve made significant advancements, especially culturally. The idea of mixed-race relationships used to trigger all sorts of segregationist objections, often times violently, but now it’s widely accepted in mainstream America. And for a white person to work alongside a black man as equals was, back then, demeaning in the minds of whites, but now equality in the workplace is not only expected, it has been codified into the law.

Within such changes, we get a glimpse of that “more perfect union” mentioned in the opening sentence of the Preamble in the U.S. Constitution.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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