How do you celebrate Martin Luther King Day? Do you use this day off from work or school to volunteer for your community or to help those in need? Do you take the time to reflect and engage in conversation about the impact that America’s greatest civil rights leader has had on society? Do you read about his life or watch his speeches?
However you commemorate Martin Luther King Day, the fact is many people don’t. Many view the third Monday of January as an excuse to sleep in and perhaps “have a dream” of a different sort. The holiday gets lumped in with President’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day as just another day off.
Dr. King is taken for granted simply as the “I have a dream” guy, and not seen as the man who sparked a movement that changed the course of civic and social America. How could this be?
Although America has a long way to go in the battle for civil rights and equality for all, we have made great strides since the early days of the movement. Perhaps this could be part of the problem. Could it be that some Americans have grown so accustomed to the great diversity of their workplaces, classrooms, and neighborhoods that they take it for granted? If this is the case, a powerful reminder is in order.
On Martin Luther King Day, maybe we should bring back segregation: whites only restaurants, stores, bathrooms, movie-theaters, and sections on the bus. The only difference would be that everyone, regardless of skin color, race, religion, sexual orientation, or social status wouldn’t be allowed in the “whites only” places.
Not having the freedom of going wherever you want, even only for a day, may be a convincing reminder of how important Dr. King was to the civil liberties we enjoy today. Although, if King were alive today, he probably wouldn’t endorse this means of celebration.
Before his untimely death, King fought enthusiastically for his dream of equal rights for all people and helped create a movement that is still going strong today. In 2008, Americans elected an African-American as their 44th president - an amazing accomplishment considering the racial segregation of only 50 years ago. Martin Luther King Day is a celebration of this very thing, a celebration we can’t afford to take for granted.