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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” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963).
In the last few weeks and month, maybe even years there has been many racial events that prove that the United States still has issues with racism and identity. Treyvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson. The incident in Texas where the police reported to a pool party because there were too many black people. New York City police choking out a suspect that leads to his death. The shooting in Baltimore, Maryland. And most recently the story of a white girl posing calling herself black when she clearly is white by her genetic heritage. All of these incidents are tragic and insane in their own way, but the bigger issue that I see within them all is the reversals of one of the dreams by the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior. Many groups of people in different ways have contributed to this dream being reversed in modern America. In short, today we only seem to judge by the color of skin instead of content of character.
Let’s start with the story of Rachel Dolezal. She was recently fired from her leadership position with the NAACP because she had lied about her race. She was born to and raised by two white parents. She claims to the “trans-racial” in the way that some people claim “transgender.” Basically this means she was born one race, but identifies as another. Personally I don’t have a problem with a white girl serving as the head of the NAACP, because there are plenty of people who are in the racial and ethnic majority that could do a great job representing the interests of the black or any minority community regardless of their skin color. While they may not completely understand the struggle that does not negate their ability to represent their interests. The NAACP concurred with this mind-set. She was not asked to step down because she was white, but because of her deceit. I am not sure what was going in Ms. Dolezal’s mind when she decided to “become” black but she must have thought in some way that it would help her in life. She was judging herself by the color of her skin instead of her character.
The other major events that are reversing King’s dream are the different incidents involving police officers and racial or ethnic minorities, specifically black people. I don’t care if its Texas, New York City, Furguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Maryland or where it is occurring people on both sides are judging on the color of skin as opposed to their character. Many in the black and minority communities are only seeing the color of skin of those shot instead of looking at their character. Some of the black people at the hearts of these incidents don’t have very strong character. Michael Brown was not a gentle giant. He robbed a store just a few minutes before his death. The same judgement of color of skin is playing out when the black community judges the police involved too; they are largely white. The storyline becomes the actions of WHITE police officers shooting BLACK people without any context of the events that led to the incidents. On the other hand, the people on the opposite side of these incidents are judging by color too.
Yes, many of the people involved in these shootings are white and many of the people as victims in these incidents are blacks. Either way, too many people are quick to judge the black people who are rioting and condemning the entire group. Judging them on the color of their skin and not their character of those involve. We should look at the actions of the majority who are not rioting and using violence in their protests. Also, just because a person is a police officer does not give them a free pass or allow to not be judged at all for their actions. Many are quick to give the police the benefit of the doubt in these incidents as others give the benefit of the doubt to the victims, just because they are police. There are bad police officers and we must judge them based on their character, not the color of this clothes.
The thought process could be said in a larger sense in how we deal with each other in the other categories in which we place ourselves. Too many times we divide ourselves by political, social, economic, and religious categories and judge others by those categories. When we do that we judge people by those categories as opposed to their character. Not all Republicans or conservatives are xenophobic, poor hating, racists. Not all Democrats want to bring about a socialist communists revolution in America. Christians are not necessarily homophobic because they believe what the Bible says about that lifestyle. Homosexuals are not trying to turn the world gay. Rich people do not necessarily want poor people to stay poor. The poor do not want to live off the system. Muslims are not terrorist. Asians are not bad drivers. Jews are not cheap. Blacks are not lazy. All of us are to busy judging each other on the color of our skin or the group we belong to instead of judging us by our personal character and actions. If we could look past the labels and see each other we could finally work with each other and find compromises to the problems we face as people and a nation.
How should we respond to these events? First, we must respect the process that is in place when these events occur. Most cities, and states have rules in place to try to judge as fairly and as equitably, as possible, when a police officer kills a person on the job. The rules put in place are to make sure that the officer has due process and his other constitutionally guaranteed rights protected. While they are not perfect, they are the best we got right now. If you feel they are unfair, or unjust then work with local and state officials to make them better. Work with local police to connect them with your community. Also realize that police will go on trial and some will be found guilty, because they acted outside of the law and they will punished for it. As much as we must respect the process we must respect the idea that we must expect higher of our law enforcement officials. A gun and bullet must be the last case scenario when dealing with suspects. We should expect better from our police officers.
Second, we must have compassion on all parties in these cases. A few days ago I watched a later episode in the series “The West Wing.” In the episode, Congressman and Democratic Party Candidate for President Matt Santos had to speak at a black church immediately the shooting of a black child by a Latino police officer. The main crux of his message is that we need to have compassion on each other in this situations. Compassion on the cops who had to pull their gun and kill someone. They will live with that their entire lives on their conscience. Compassion for the victims, because no one deserves to die without due process, regardless of their crime. Compassion for the families involved who now face life without loved one or the prospect of life without loved ones. We must have compassion because it can heal us more than vengeance ever can.
Lastly, both sides of these issues are guilty of judging based on the color of skin instead of the character of those involved. We need to get all the facts about a case before any of us race to judgement in favor of police or victims. Unfortunately the news media does not always help with that, but each of us has it within our power to critically read the news. Don’t just look at one site for news on these incidents, look at several from different perspectives. Then make judgements about the case. But remember these accounts are at best second and third hand information, therefore it may not represent the truth. In the end, we must judge on these people’s character, not their skin color. That is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior desired over 50 years ago. We must live up to that dream today.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Class dismissed!