Monday, January 17, 2011

The Road to Travel

Today is MLK. That's the way it was referred to in school. My twelve years of schooling in the South saturated me with the history of the civil rights movement. Southerners are still apologizing for the wrongs of our forefathers. We're not very far removed from those who would quash African Americans civil liberties. It was our grandparents and great-grandparents who voted. My mother remembers a race riot coming up the street on the day of Dr. King's death; she was a senior in high school.

Today is a day to celebrate the progress we've made. However, I can't help but think of the amount we still have to do. Leaving behind for a moment the black vs. white score Dr. King wanted to settle, let me enumerate the issues the country still faces.

Homosexuals do not have equal rights. Their difference is less visible than the difference between races, but they do not have equal civil liberties. They cannot marry in most places, nor have they escaped threats of violence. Dr. King's daughter is anti-gay rights. How far have we come?

People with disabilities have equal rights on the surface. There are ramps for us, and the ADA generation is growing up, attending college, entering the work force. Yet, a kindergartener can still be voted out of his class. The youth I work with every summer have been teased, sometimes by their own family members. They don't know their rights, they are not taught the history of those who fought for them. Maybe they know Helen Keller is the Apples to Apples trump card, or that she talks with her hips. How far have we come?

I can name off countless other, meaningless, stupid, prejudices people hold. Prejudices that affect my life, and the lives of my friends. I also know that we have come very, very far from the day when Dr. King gave his famous speech. From the educational video I dug up claiming homosexuality was contagious. From the ugly laws forbidding people with disabilities from walking the streets.

Unfortunately, the thought foremost in my mind today is that we have not come far enough.

Don't forget. We've only passed a curve in the long and winding road.


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