Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to action still deserves attention
January 17, 2015
More than half a century later, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a world in which people would "not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character" is still not fully realized. This year, that became painfully evident in the wake of several tragic confrontations between white police officers and black civilians and the violent protests that followed.
The shooting deaths of two unarmed black men in particular, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Akai Gurley in Brooklyn, N.Y. highlighted enormous disparities in treatment and gaps in trust between law officers and minorities, perhaps not as blatant as during the height of King’s era, but still as egregious.
The protests also underscored the ongoing challenges still plaguing many minority communities: poverty, crime, lack of education and hopelessness, brought on, in part, by decades of discrimination.
It is not hard to imagine the inspirational preacher who drew more than a quarter of a million people to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, today calling for another rally — for access to economic opportunities, equal treatment under the law and greater representation in the ranks of leadership.
So this Monday, on the day set aside to honor his memory, we are hoping citizens of all races, religions and cultural backgrounds will take a moment to contemplate King’s timeless message. His "I Have a Dream" speech rings as true today as it did in 1963.
If anything, its reach has expanded beyond America’s civil rights movement and offers valuable insights about global discrimination and human rights abuses. As the world becomes smaller we learn that discrimination against any group, for racial or religious reasons, foments violence.
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While Utah has been, in many ways, removed from the front lines of the current controversies, there have been several recent incidents in which citizens have been shot by police. Race has not been the predominant issue, but there are questions about the use of force by law enforcement.
King staked his life on speaking out about civil rights. At the time his efforts were focused on the inexcusable treatment of blacks in America. Today his same arguments could be made on behalf of countless minorities being subjugated in violent societies around the world. And if there is one thing we have learned from our own experience here in the United States, as long any part of a community is denied access to basic freedoms like education, jobs and respect, the entire society will suffer.