King’s message to Americans
I am always struck by the absurdity that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is widely considered to be a “black holiday.”
I reject that notion. In King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he bravely declared the following: “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.”
I too share this dream for my own children, who incidentally will be half Caucasian and half Hispanic. I do not wish for them to live in a world where they are defined by their racial heritage rather than by the virtue of their good deeds and heart.
The color of one’s skin is a wildly preposterous attribute to judge another individual on if there ever was one. Ayn Rand was correct in stating that “racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.”
It casts one’s fellow man not as an individual to be judged on the basis of “his own character and actions,” but by the collective actions of his ancestors and others with similar skin colors and ancestral backgrounds.
No rational person and lover of human liberty should support such a crude and irrational prejudice of thought to be perpetuated, much less to be used in order to codify injustice into law.
And yet, such a prejudice of thought has existed since the birth of our nation and continues to exist to this day.
It should be remembered, then, that America is not great by the mere virtue of its existence, but by the philosophy that it represents — namely, that all men are created equal and have unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
As King noted, there are no qualifiers on the bold proclamations of the Declaration of Independence, nor exclusions predicated on one’s racial or ethnic heritage. The fact that this universal truth was not applied to all people in this country for hundreds of years is a cruel aberration in this history of human liberty.
Martin Luther King, Jr. represented a natural extension of all the courageous men who came before him that fought desperately for the cause of human freedom and dignity. He reminded us that we should never be content with the injustices that we have been presented with, but to always and everywhere challenge a philosophy that favors the subjugation of any one group of individuals over another. He evoked the sentiments of great abolitionists before him who insisted that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
A man’s legacy does not exist in the abstract but only in the minds of his fellow men, as interpretations of his endeavors. For me, King’s legacy is embodied in the words he spoke proudly in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. It was a message not intended only for African-Americans, but for all Americans. It demanded that every man be afforded the sacred rights that are codified in our nation’s founding document. It affirmed once more that simple lip service to freedom and justice is not enough.
On that day, King continued the fight that cannot be allowed to end. Every generation has a responsibility to ensure that freedom rings “from every mountainside… from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city.”
We are all equals in the brotherhood of man, which is by nature born free. Let us renew the pursuit of a society where man is not subject to the arbitrary dictates of another, but free to live peacefully according to the dictates of his own conscience.
Steven Christopher is an economics alumnus and graduate finance student in the C.T. Bauer College of Business and may be reached at [email protected].