On Martin Luther King Day, some Americans chose to celebrate or simply reflect on key messages from Martin Luther King Jr.--his famous "I have a dream" speech, still echoing in their minds. "Have we made any progress?" was the question of the day it seemed.
As I watch television, I see a very multicultural world. Children of different races and ethnicities can be seen playing and smiling together. Catalogs and magazines feature models of all colors. For a visitor to America, it must surely seem we've indeed mastered this "melting pot" thing.
Watching these images, we can easily forget that it was only 40 years ago when, as a nation divided, we rallied, debated and ultimately decided to build a new America. This fact became very real to me as I watched the PBS program
The Murder of Emmett Till
. The use of modern technology (video footage of the murderers, the trial, and witness accounts) seemed an anachronism given the old, blatantly biased legal practices and faulty systemic approaches of a supposedly bygone era. And still, these horrible past injustices clearly pointed out to me just
how far we've come in these 40 years
And then I logged onto AOL. The message board topic of the day asked whether or not Dr. King's dream had been realized. AOL users were asked to log their perspectives. The results were horrifying. As I read through the tangled web of anonymous insults, derogatory attacks, controversial racial epithets, and knee-jerk outraged responses, I couldn't help but realize that despite our progress,
we still have so very far to go
A multitude of comments minimizing the importance of Dr. King's message by pointing out his well-known personal flaws, and statements like "Why don't you all go back where you came from" and "My family celebrates James Earl Jones Day instead," plus a number of others I dare not repeat here, speak for the
group of Americans who did not celebrate, who did not reflect, and who instead, sat with a seething anger and hatred on this day.
Yes America, at a very quick glance we may look like the dream Dr. King envisioned. But underneath it all, we still have so much work to do. A debilitating legacy of lip service, double-speak, and an orientation toward "tolerance" as the best solution we can come up with, has continued to perpetuate our lack of respect for one another. Even after 9-11, our ability to learn from one another, to grasp the simple reality that we are all indeed in the same
remains just as Dr. King coined it--"a dream."