Remembering King's legacy

By Staff
Kim West
While I was a student at North Alabama, I attended a speech given by a UNA student at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony. The student talked about her first encounter with racism as a newly elected class officer during her senior year of high school. When the results were announced, some of her classmates objected solely because of her race.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that all citizens are entitled to equal rights and prohibits discrimination. Those classmates didn't prevent her election, but they definitely didn't show the kind of respect she deserved, either.
Laws might restrict or prohibit behavior, but I don't believe they can truly change how people treat each other in day-to-day life. It is up to us to show each other respect based on character, and not on superficial criteria such as skin color and race.
If you have never experienced racism firsthand, it goes beyond simple name-calling. It is like being treated as a stereotype or an idea, instead of an actual person, and a person can only be truly judged by his or her actions and character.
When I hear proclamations such as "the Mexicans are taking our jobs," "the blacks are taking over" and "talking like a white person," I attribute them to ignorance, and not necessarily racism. But isn't racism born out of ignorance? I challenge us to learn from each other, instead of spitting out insults and making assumptions.
Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."
Some people don't understand why Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national holiday. King was a man who argued for peace during a violent time and believed in racial equality, and that love is more powerful than hatred.
I am grateful the holiday exists because it reminds me how far our country has progressed, and how far we have left to go.

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