MLK Day remembered with reflection

Saúl Berríos-Thomas | Layout Editor

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my heroes. We commemorated his life on Monday.
It is one of those weird holidays. What are we supposed to do on this day? There are no fireworks, no barbecue, no decorations or ornaments. We get the day off and many people may just do nothing and relax. I took the opportunity to think about the way race relations have changed, and how they have stayed the same.
With the events in Ferguson and the deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and John Crawford fresh in our memory, now is a good time to think about this issue. On the night of the non-indictment in Ferguson I looked at my Facebook timeline and I saw a mix of reaction that was representative of this weird personal community I have built around myself. The common response on both sides was anger. This raw vitriol was not even being masked, both sides were eager to out-outrage each other.
One thing was made clear to me that night. This country isn’t the melting pot that it intends to be. We pick and choose when to be inclusive. The fact is that there isn’t integration. Groups just accept each others’ existence and choose to try to avoid the other groups.

It is apparent all around me in my life. In my classes I am usually one of only one to three minorities. At my job I only see on or two other minorities sitting at desks, but at the end of the night when the janitors start to clean the building I only see one or two members of the majority cleaning.

Have we made progress? Yes, of course, but that doesn’t mean we are approaching perfect. We are still far from what could be an unachievable ideal. This ideal, however, probably isn’t desirable for any of the parties involved. As it is currently constructed the pockets of isolated racial groups do not want to be together with other racial groups.
As the tension between races grows in parts of this country, there are other parts of this country that are becoming more integrated than they have ever been. Interracial relationships are more acceptable now than they ever were. In fact interracial relationships are so common now that in some instances that the lines are beginning to blur. Call it the “Browning of America,” where there aren’t these hard and fast lines between white and black because more and more people are falling somewhere in the middle.
The issue of racial tension isn’t something that is unique to America. It has been part of human history forever. What makes the issues in America unique is that we are nation built from immigrants and yet we pick and chose which of those immigrants have a right to this land and which ones are not welcome.
Black people are upset with Ferguson because this is yet another example of why they have to be scared of the people who are supposed to protect them. Black people have been the victims of police violence so often that journalists don’t report it the way they once did. White people are upset with the events of Ferguson because they are lucky enough to grow up in a situation where police help them and protect them. They don’t believe that the police are purposefully targeting black people and they believe that black people bring about the police scrutiny because they are more likely to break the law. Both sides are becoming more polarized because of the anger they feel from the other side. In general there are some police who use their badge to hassle black people. These incidents of violence are examples of outliers. A few bad examples are making the hate on both sides worse.
Then there is the issue of coverage. At first no one was talking about Ferguson, it was just another black person killed by gun violence. Then when protest started the issue took off. It created emotion on both sides and the coverage was overwhelming. Now the coverage is fading even though the issue has not changed and in some minds justice has still failed.
So, I think back to King’s dream speech. He said that “one day” equality will be achieved. I am sorry to say we have not reached that day yet. We are closer than we have ever been and for most that is good enough, but for the people who are still the victims of racial tension in America it is not.
“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.”
Not yet Dr. King.