Living the dream of MLK each day

By Paul Cruse III

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has come and gone. For most students Monday was like any other day without classes. Some students slept well into the afternoon, nursing their hangover. Other students saw a prime opportunity to go to the Intramural Physical Education building and continue that New Year’s resolution of staying in shape. Still others decided to catch up on their homework and reading. But when I woke up that cold, Monday morning, I thought, “What a beautiful day, I am sure Dr. King would be proud to see America as it is today.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t stay in the entire day and meditate on the progress America has made since the 1960s. I went to the gym and played basketball. I finally decided to start reading for my classes. I even watched TV and played video games, for longer than I should have. But for the time it took me to write this column, I did contemplate how much fairer America has become since Dr. King rallied for some of the rights that most of us take for granted.

It has been about 40 years since the rallies and sit-ins. Forty years since little black girls were bombed in churches. Forty years since police dogs and fire hoses were turned loose against peaceful protesters, demanding their overdue rights. Forty years since the destructive race riots that erupted when Dr. King was killed. With all of the atrocities that have happened in the past, I am truly amazed at how far we have come.

By no means is the world perfect. There are places were racism still lives. America has slip-ups like the unjust incarceration of the Jena Six, where six black young men were put in jail and charged with a drastically excessive crime, while the white young men who were also involved were never even arrested, or the negligent actions of the federal government in response to Hurricane Katrina and how the media portrayed black survivors, calling them “refugees” and “looters.”

Even though things like that do happen, they are few and far between. There was once a time when blacks weren’t allowed to own businesses, earn college degrees, or even vote. Today, black people are lawyers, doctors, professors, CEOs and politicians. Barack Obama is a living testament to the progress that has been made. Though the election is far from being over and he is not the clear favorite, the fact that a black man is being taken seriously as a presidential candidate is a tribute to all of the work done by our ancestors.

There has even been a rise in black conservatives. Though they might differ from most blacks (including myself) in their solutions on how to continue to improve the United States, the fact that people can see past their ethnicity and are accepted by other conservatives for their beliefs illustrates how much progress has been made.

What is even more astonishing is that all of this has happened in less than half a century. The same people who performed sit-ins and were violently beaten for their civil disobedience can now enter those same facilities and be served without any complications. The same people, who walked miles to work in order to boycott unfair busing policies, now are able to sit wherever they please when riding public transportation.

America has come a long way and we should never forget our past. We should appreciate the state of equality we live in now and should always push to be more progressive. It is this evolution that makes America so great. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is not yet fully realized but it is very close and getting closer every day.

Paul is a junior in computer and political science and is proud to be an American.