The importance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day today and every day

Image via Getty Images

by Kaya Garza

As Black History Month comes to an end, we reflect upon the sacrifices Dr. King and similar activists made in the 1960s ultimately led to the success of the Civil Rights Movement, but many believe that it’s still far from over.

We should all believe that.

The United States has a stained history regarding African-American liberation and equality, and it has continually progressed through many eras and presidencies. From slavery and segregation to Reagan’s War on Drugs that led to mass incarcerations of minorities, more specifically that of African-Americans. This conduit of oppression has a particular cadence, one that lingers despite strenuous efforts to abolish it. Many Americans truly believe racism isn’t a problem, considering the former African-America President, Barack Obama, and comprehensive education that teaches our children from a young age that racism is a giant mistake on behalf of our country. One that we must never make again.

But here’s the catch: just because we recognize racism as a nation certainly does not mean we’ve mitigated it enough. Racism has effectively become political: if you condemn police brutality, you are now anti-police. If you condemn the media for a lack of representation, you are a millennial liberal who grew up offended by everything. If you condemn our prison system, you are “soft on crime“ and “soft on drugs”.Black activists are often portrayed as anti-America because if you condemn these things, you’re a radical and extremist.

Colin Kaepernick is a perfect example of this: he kneeled peacefully during an NFL game, protesting racial injustice in our country. Members of extreme right-wing think tanks and media outlets reprimanded Kaepernick, accusing him of being unpatriotic and disrespectful towards our veterans. Then a small minority of Black Lives Matter activists broke a couple of windows. An action explicitly condemned by the group leaders. Isn’t it odd that they get angry about both forms of protest? It seems like they simply find the protesting unnecessary.

“That’s what America is built upon,” said Rockwell senior Marshall Sellers. “It’s the right of the people to protest peacefully and stand up for what they believe in. Even if that means sitting.”

So how does this translate and coincide with Martin Luther King Jr Day?

Perhaps we can look back on how Dr. King and other activists were treated by political figures and members of the media. They condemned him, called him a communist, ridiculed his efforts. Now, he has a monument in our nation‘s Capital.

We have to understand as a nation that protest is the cornerstone of our sovereignty, and has led to the guarantees afforded to us by our Constitution. A protest is not un-American, it is actually quite the opposite. Having the right to fight for your rights is the most American thing I can think of. Let’s take some time to consider why we still must protest, and to defend our country’s minorities. The importance of Dr. King‘s holiday will never be diminished, no matter who may disrespect modern day Civil Rights activists. That fight is far from over.

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