by Samira Kassem, staff writer
In light of the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on Monday, I began to consider what he would think given the hopelessly divided and repugnant nature of the United States’ current political paradigm. I believe race relations have come a long way, but have far further to go. As historic events gift to us a glimpse of horizons of grace and hope, there are still pockets of society in which progress is stagnant, or, worse, steps backward are becoming evident.
It is clear that Dr. King would have been amazed by the election of Barack Obama to the White House. The election of an African American to the highest office in the nation was a huge step forward towards racial equality. With this leap in the correct direction, we now face an imminent threat to all that was gained with the residency of Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
Donald Trump is a racist, no matter how many times he claims this to be ‘fake news’. It is hard to argue that Dr. King wouldn’t have been repulsed at Trump’s statement referring to African and Latin American countries as ‘shithole countries.’
Dr. King would have been proud to see football players practicing peaceful protest against the injustices being committed against black Americans. Their bravery and willingness to stand up in the face of hate mimics the practices that King stood for so valiantly. After all, so-called patriots of his time frowned upon him for his use of peaceful protest, just as we have seen today. Black men daring to raise their voices to draw attention to a legitimate grievance with the way policing is conducted in our nation would have been met with King’s praise-quite contrary to the reactionary and intellectually shallow response from the President.
The divided, hateful America that we live in today is not a place that I believe would make Dr. King Proud. Dr. King once said “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” In these times of great injustice against minority groups, Dr. King would agree that being silent is a crime against our nation. He famously stated that “our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.”
This Martin Luther King Jr. day is about something greater than it has been in past years. While our president was on the golf course, I hope you were participating in the teach-in, educating yourself, and doing good in our community. Now more than ever, we must walk in Dr. King’s footsteps of peaceful protest and fighting injustice. Trump’s hateful remarks are not representative of this country, we are better than this. We must continue to be involved, vote in local and state elections coming up, and speak out against hate. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and “look[ed] to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Just because the work of Dr. King was able to bring us forward in racial equality, does not mean our work is done. His legacy set a bar for who we as a society should strive to be when faced with abhorrent worldviews such as the ones vocalized by this administration. One day the history books will look back to these grave days of our country in the same light that we now see the days of segregation and Jim Crow Laws. Will you be able to say you spoke up?