It has been more than 40 years since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his poignant dream to the American people. His words are known by heart by many Americans, yet his words are so compelling they deserve to be repeated once more: “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.”
King’s words ring as true today as the day he uttered them, but despite his words’ prevalence, their implication is still not fully recognized by the American people. In spite of the lengths from which we have we come that August day in 1963, the United States still largely embraces the idea of race from 1900.
The fundamental problem is that the United States is still a race-conscious society. The crux of King’s dream was that a person’s race would become a non-issue. He advocated the end of racial segregation in the most complete sense of the phrase: the end of a fundamental division of people into classes based on race.
The United States has failed in the fight against segregation by trying too hard to achieve it. A perfect example is Black History Month in February. This is a segregationist idea at heart. Its premise lies in recognizing individuals not for their contributions, their achievements or their ideals, but because they are a member of a racial class. It teaches people to further separate races in their minds as different social groups entirely. It builds separation at the expense of unity.
The same reasoning applies to the recent “diversity” vogue. We must ask ourselves: Why is racial diversity considered to add value to something such as a workplace, a University campus or society? In the United States of King’s dream, racial diversity is not a value; it is regarded as a non-issue.
Diversity should be sought in ideas, interests and personalities. It should also be sought in the content of one’s character, but certainly not in one’s skin color.
The cost of this race-conscious thought is visible across the spectrum of modern U.S. society. The worst perpetrators of this consciousness lurk in the realm of politics, exploiting race for political muscle. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are examples of political entities whose power is primarily derived from lobbying for a particular race.
The entire concept of lobbying for a certain race is absurd. Is there anything more divisive than pitting your race in vigorous battle against the rest of society? The adamant support for this that exists is proof of our society’s deplorable view of racial matters.
However, political corruption is just the beginning. Race consciousness is exploited throughout the United States. Justly prosecuted individuals retaliate by pulling what the media now calls “the race card,” painting themselves as racial martyrs of an insensitive public (case in point: Michael Jackson). From college admissions to the justice system, race consciousness has managed to permeate every level of society, even as society has tried to be as accommodating as possible.
The answer to these ills is quite simple. We need to focus on King’s original dream and pursue it. The best course for America was outlined by King decades ago and remains the best course. Martin Luther King Jr. Day provides us with a great opportunity to set our country on the right track once again.
Brinton Ahlin is a guest columnist. He welcomes comments at [email protected]