"What does Martin Luther King Jr. mean to you?"
A big, open-ended question/challenge issued by NPR's Tell Me More with Michel Martin that allows us to reflect on the extraordinary contributions made by the civil and human rights icon that moved us toward a more perfect nation.
But it also painfully reminds us that more than half a century after Dr. King paid for daring to speak up against the status quo with his life:
- the inequality gap is larger than it has been in decades;
- although Jim Crowe laws or poll taxes are illegal, voting rights are under siege in certain communities as evidenced by a case before the Supreme Court about re-drawn voting maps in Texas by the Republican-controlled state legislature that don't take into account the demographic growth of the Latino population.
Additionally, immigration reform, arguably the civil rights struggle of this generation, is stalled in Congress. President Obama is only just beginning to exercise his executive authority over the federal agencies tasked with immigration enforcement, making small but significant changes to keep non-violent illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. with their citizen family--only after significant pressure from the Latino community.
While Washington is paralyzed, in parts of the country, the witch hunt for illegal immigrants has gutted neighborhoods, destroyed families, shuttered business, left crops and U.S. citizen students' brains to rot because parents are afraid to send their kids to school in case immigration status is checked. People who look undocumented, including U.S. citizens are being profiled, detained, and in some extreme cases, deported.
None of this has happened or likely will happen to me.
But: There by the grace of God go I.
What if I had been born, not with alabaster-colored skin of my European and criollo ancestors, but with the darker shades of indigenous or African roots tangled in my family tree? What if I didn't speak, if not the Queen's English, a close second, that smooth, confident accent perfected at Yale and the other private schools financed by my parents, all but hawking their shoes to pay cash for their kids tuition when the scholarship money was cut?
Martin Luther King Jr.--and the millions of nameless, faceless brave men and women before and after him--stood up, so I can stand tall and reach for the stars.
Yet his dream, our dream is incomplete.
It lives on, if each of us speaks up for it.
Fights for it.
Click below to listen to NPR's Michel Martin who invited me, along with Kai Wright of Colorlines.com, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, author of Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era, and R. Clarke Cooper of the Log Cabin Republicans, an organization for gay members of the GOP to her show Tell Me More to discuss Dr. King's legacy and dream.
To hear more hot topics on TMM‘s “Beauty Shop” where Viviana is a regular weekly contributor with Michel, plus smart and sassy ladies, click here.
Reflecting on Dr. King's legacy, what do think has been accomplished, what's left?