Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2015
“The Content of Character”
On January 19, 2015 the country will once again observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a pastor, civil rights leader, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner. His example of peaceful resistance has remained a pattern for many others to follow.
It would be nice to think almost fifty years after Dr. King was murdered that race in America is no longer an issue. Unfortunately, if you watch the news at all you know this isn’t the case. From the murder of Trayvon Martin, to Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner we are constantly reminded how race divides us. However, the only race we should concern ourselves with is the human race. When we allow the rich and the powerful to divide us by color of skin, the working class can’t stand together.
On August 28, 1963, Dr. King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech, which ushered in a turning point in race relations. One of the most important statements from that speech was “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.”
Webster calls character “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” The content of a person’s character then would be what their mental and moral qualities are. In his historic speech, what Dr. King was saying was what he wished for his children was they would be judged by who they were not what they were. We are individuals and it is our own decisions that define the content of our character and not the pigmentation of our skin.
However, 52 years after that landmark speech as a nation we still struggle with judging others by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. The recent racial unrest is proof of that. Both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner issue ended up a situation of choosing sides, with Fox News flaming the flames. Media such as Fox News somehow convinced too many people this issue should be decided based on the color of YOUR skin rather than the content of the character of the people involved.
So why would Right Winged media spend so much time trying to cause a racial divide? Because it elects their candidates that stand against the working class- that’s why. Dr. King understood why those in power used categories to separate the working class. He preached unity and peace among the races. His peaceful approach to resistance should have put everyone’s mind at ease. Unfortunately, the hate peddlers far too often were successful in diluting the message to the masses.
I grew up in the segregated South and remember the “white and colored” bathrooms and water fountains. The majority of the Caucasian families lived in the same share cropper shack as the African American families, but because they could use the “white” water fountains and bathrooms they would usually vote with the rich. They greatest thing that was segregated was the opportunity for the working class, but too many fell under the smoke screen of judging people by what they were rather than who they are. If the content of character had been used as a unit of measure, many of the poor whites would have seen they were voting against their best interest. Supporting policies that went against their neighbors of other races usually went against them as well due to the fact they were in the same economic situation.
When President Obama was elected President many made the statement that Dr. King’s dream had been realized. I would have to disagree with that. I think Dr. King’s dream was that a person of any race should be able to run for President and be judged on who they were. I think much of the opposition to the President has been based on his race not his ideas. The rich and powerful have used race to divide the country and elect candidates at the local, state and national level that are against everything that working people stand for. Right wing media has used the recent issues with Michael Brown and Eric Garner to further divide working class people. We as a people have to learn to judge each person by the content of their character. That includes politicians, the public, police officers--everyone we come in contact with. Speaking of police officers- being an officer doesn’t always make you right, just as being an officer doesn’t make you wrong. It is the content of their character that defines them- not a uniform. Most officers are caring people, but as with everyone else we should look at the content of their character.
In all reality, chances are we will never become a truly color blind society, but without trying we will never know. If people would celebrate the differences between us as opposed to fearing them, what a better place the world would be. If we could only learn to see the heart of man as oppose to his skin, then we can truly judge them based on the content of their character.
On this observance of Dr. King’s birthday, it is my prayer that we all will work harder at seeing more of the character and less of the skin. Love can prevail if we work hard at it. Remember, Dr. King said “I have decided to stick to love...Hate is too great a burden to bear.” May we all unload the burden and learn to love through character.
Peace my friends,
Region 8 Webmaster and LUCA Advisory Council Chair