Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

January 21, 2013

What We Think: MLK Day: An American holiday

- — Each year seems to find an increase in local events commemorating the life, the words and, most importantly, the dream of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

These events honor the ideas of King who spoke of not judging people by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. The same King who spoke for political, social and economic equality for blacks. The same King who led the tumultuous civil rights movement through the 1950s and ’60s.

These events celebrate the strides that have been made in equal rights for all Americans, no matter their race, since the days of King. And these events will note the travails that remain in regards to race within our nation.

During these events, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech has been mentioned, quoted and read. It ranks as one of the most eloquent and powerful speeches in American history.

In that speech, King spoke of many things, including, “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. ... I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. ...”

While enormous strides have been made in integration from schools and theatres to the workplace and restaurants, even with the election of a black President, the MLK events likely won’t reflect such integration. The majority of these events will be attended by black participants while whites stay away.

Why such a disparity? It is hard to say. Perhaps, it is because whites do not feel welcome or they do not believe the events are for them.

But this situation is not unique to Valdosta. Throughout the nation, by both blacks and whites, Martin Luther King Day is largely perceived as a “black holiday.”

What an ironic injustice for the day commemorating the man who spoke of blacks and whites sitting together at the table of brotherhood.

Martin Luther King wasn’t just a great African-American.

He was a great American.

Martin Luther King Day isn’t an African-American holiday. It is an American holiday to honor a man who asked America to keep its long-held promise that all men are created equal.   

Martin Luther King is a man for all Americans as the day commemorating him is a day for all Americans to reflect on the nation’s past, but more importantly, think of its future.

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