Dr. King was one of many who fought for equality. Though his ultimate goal was equality for African-Americans, it spread to the rest of the country. Women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and other Americans of color who have been disenfranchised heard his message and understood exactly what he was saying.
Though we can proudly say that we have made progress in the multiple decades since he was taken from us, it is more than clear that true equality is still too far off for many. I remember a cartoon in a book when I was in school. The image was of a tree had been cut at its base, but the roots were untouched. The analogy about racism and prejudice was obvious.
The fact is that we have a long way to do. Between the riot in DC almost two weeks ago and the murders of multiple African Americans last year, the dark side of the United States revealed itself in a way that was opening.
What Dr. King started almost a century ago, we have to finish. It is the only way to make his dream a reality.
If you know nothing about New York City, you know that it is an expensive place to live. For the same price of renting or buying a home in New York City, one can buy a home with a large piece of land in another part of the country.
“Go back to Iowa, you go back to Ohio,” he said during a speech in Harlem.
“New York City belongs to the people that was here and made New York City what it is.”
To be fair, the point he is making is not exactly a lie. Living in New York City is not cheap. In many neighborhoods that were once considered to be untouchable, gentrification is causing rent and home prices to rise. An unfortunate side effect of this is that long time residents of these neighborhoods (many of whom who are people of color), cannot afford to stay in their homes.
However, the blame does not lie on the feet of those who come from states like Iowa and Ohio. I have many friends who are not native New Yorkers. Their contribution to this city is just as important as those of us who were born here. The blame lies on the building owners and the developers who charge prices for homes that is unreasonable for most of America. The blame also lies with the city and the state who do not step in to make sure that the homeless population is not increasing because of rising rent and home buying prices.
New York City has always welcome newcomers. It is what makes this city so vibrant and so beautiful. If this city is to thrive in the future, we must continue to welcome newcomers. We must also ensure that those who live here can continue to live here. But that does not mean we blame those newcomers for being able to afford to live here.
“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”
What many forget is that American Jews were on the forefront of the Civil Rights moment.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was not only a good friend of Dr. King, he was an ally. He was on the front lines with Dr. King, fighting for the rights of African-Americans.
In 1964, three young men were murdered because they believed that all Americans, regardless of race, were equal. James Chaney was the son of a African-American family from Mississippi. Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were raised Jewish in the New York City area. They came together and were murdered together because of what they believed and what they were fighting for.
When I think about Martin Luther King Jr., I think of a man of courage, honor and conviction. He knew that the journey and others were about embark upon was dangerous. But he also knew that it was right. I take that as a lesson not just in my personal life, but in every aspect of my life. What is right is not always easy. But in that lack of ease comes the knowledge that though the journey is difficult, it is the only way forward.
Senator Harris (D-California), from my perspective, is the ideal candidate to go up against you know who. She represents everything that this country stands for and what is represents. She is the daughter of two immigrants, a woman of color, a litigator whose career has been focused on fighting for injustice and fighting for the underdog.
Looking back, I can see why Hillary Clinton alienated certain voters during the 2016 Presidential election. There is nothing worse than an unlikable woman, especially in the arena of politics. It taints the idea that a woman can succeed in the political arena. Senator Harris is professional, intelligent, well spoken, but also warm and easy to talk to. She understands the struggles of the average American.
It makes sense that Senator Harris would make her announcement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While only time will tell who goes up against you know who next fall, I hope that come 2020, I will be able to refer to Senator Harris as Madam President.
There are two ways to deal with injustice in the world. One way is to sit back, throw your hands in the air and do nothing because you feel powerless. The other way is to be bold enough, in spite of the fear and trepidation, to stand up for what is right and for those who are unable to fight for themselves.
In his time, he lived in a divided America. In our time, we still live in a divided America. There is still a notion in this country (and the world by extension) that one’s skin color, family background or sexuality is a defining factor how we judge another person instead of judging someone as an individual. It’s 2019, it’s time that saw each other as individuals instead of judging them by labels that are beyond our control.
Dr. King was a speaker like no other. Over fifty years after his death, his words continue to inspire us. In facing the demons of hate, he stated the following:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
It takes more time, emotion and energy to hate than to love. It’s 2019, it’s time to hold out our hands with love to our neighbors. I can’t think of a better way to honor Dr. King’s memory.
Imagine this: you are a young man brought to America by your parents looking for a better life. Your parents might not have thought through the legal side of emigration, but they were thinking of your future. Decades pass and you are living a normal life. Marriage, kids, working, not causing trouble with the law, paying your taxes on time, etc. Then you are forced to leave America for a country you may not remember and have to leave your family behind.
This is the story of Jorge Garcia. Yesterday, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Mr. Garcia was forced to return to Mexico. Despite the fact that his wife and children are American citizens, he will not be allowed to return to the country for ten years. Unfortunately, he is too old to quality for DACA.
This is the type of story that makes my blood boil. This man does not even have a parking ticket to his name. His only crime is being brought to America as a child. There many thousands of men and women who have similar tales to Mr. Garcia. They might not have been born here and their parents might have skirted the immigration rules, but for all intents and purposes, they are Americans. They are in school, they are working, they are raising American children. They are contributing to our country. I see no reason to force them out of the only country they call home. It is inhumane, indecent and goes against everything that America stands for.
Decades after his death, he remains an icon for civil rights not just in the United States, but across the world.
Considering all that has happened in our country since his assassination nearly fifty years ago, I feel like I have ask what he would think of America in 2018?
I think he would be immensely proud that Barack Obama sat in the Oval Office for eight years. I also think he would be thrilled to see the leaps and bounds made by Americans of color since 1968. I also think he would be angered and still marching when the murders of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner made headlines across the country.
While we still have a long way to go in terms of true equality, we would not be as far along as we are without Martin Luther King Jr.
Wherever you are, sir, RIP and thank you. Your courage helped to create the America we see today.
If you will it, it is no dream; and if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay-Theodore Herzl
Today, we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Like his predecessor, Mahatma Gandhi, he saw what could be a better world. He also saw the injustice and prejudice that was holding back that world.
He could have done nothing. It would have been far easier sit back, and take it. But he chose to speak out, march and be the voice for the disenfranchised African-American community. While his life was cut short far too soon, his legacy will live on.
The main lesson that I take away from him is that instead of throwing your hands up in the face of injustice and simply taking it, we should be speaking out. We should be making our voices heard in favor of those who cannot speak for themselves.
In spite of the hardship and the difficulties that lay ahead, Martin Luther King Jr. was willing to make the sacrifice for a better world.
Perhaps we should take a lesson from his playbook and do the same.