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MLK’s desire for colorblind society overlooked

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Michael Swickard / Tuning in

Michael Swickard / Tuning in

They are words that will dwell in the hearts of mankind for centuries: “I have a dream…”

At last week’s 50-year celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, I was disappointed that the occasion was partisan and worse, missed entirely King’s desire for a colorblind society.

What made King extraordinary was that, like Gandhi earlier, he knew the oppressed minority could not by force of arms change their own status. Both men realized that only by appealing to the good people of the majority could any real change occur. That is exactly what happened.

The 20th century was America’s worst and best years. Sadly, early in the century our Constitution had been changed, but not the society. Men of color fought for this country and came back to a society still firmly in the grip of the race haters. We now realize that many of the majority population were on the side of minorities but needed a catalyst for them to make societal changes.

In the 1950s, King had a vision of a colorblind society. He did not want blacks to oppress whites any more than he wanted segregation to continue. It was difficult to change our society. But our society was already changing for the better in many ways.

In 1962, President John Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone.”

Sadly, Kennedy was not at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He stayed at the White House. People have speculated on his reasons. Regardless, he heard King’s message and, in the last months of his life, which was cut short by an assassin’s bullet, the seeds of the 1964 Civil Rights Act grew. Kennedy, and then Lyndon Johnson, had to go against their own Democratic Party, but King’s dream propelled them forward.

King was heard by the quarter of a million people in the audience that day in Washington. However, the majority also read and heard his message. It changed their hearts from inaction to action. Starting in the 1960s, the segregationists no longer spoke for each community. Each battle in each community was individual and personal. Eventually, the good people triumphed over the evil.

King was speaking also about the content of the character of the majority society. As we saw in the years that followed, discrimination by the majority was eliminated. Yes, there are still pockets of haters on both sides and there are race baiters and those who make a good living dividing us, the United States of America. But we, as a nation, heard King. We reached out and embraced his heart to ours.

This nation now reflects a racial blend of heroes and leaders from President Obama to Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Cosby, Will Smith, Oprah. And the list goes on. Any child born today can be president or can rise to the top of Hollywood. Any child born today can be a general, admiral or Supreme Court justice.

Our society is becoming a racially blended society. Woods blends two races, as does our President.

Yes, the race haters are still in our midst. The dividers need us to be a divided nation for their power. The dividers need us divided. The media need the conflict and strife. But truthfully, the majority of Americans do not have a racial divide in their hearts.

The nation, as a whole, is not divided by race despite the needs of the media and the race hustlers who would have us believe our nation is still in that evil grip.

We are told that we should not judge all Muslims by the actions of the few extremists. I would extend that argument to include not judging America by the actions of a few race haters. Let us be Martin Luther King’s colorblind America.

(Michael Swickard hosts the syndicated radio talk show “News New Mexico” from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. Email: michael@swickard.com.)

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