On this the 20th day of January, 2014, which marks the 85th birthday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we celebrate the birth, life and legacy of a man who sacrificed everything for the cause of gaining equality of rights for those who, historically, systematically and categorically had been denied the same on the basis of the color of their skin. To say that Dr. King is the African-American cultural icon for civil rights and the fight for freedom is an understatement. African-Americans who have and continue to endure unfair treatment at the hands of those who have the power to deny them equal treatment and acceptance, fully identify with and embody the tremendous struggles, defeats and gains of the non-violent peace movement which King led, a courageous movement that unified and mobilized a downtrodden people that had had enough of the bigotry, intolerance and terrorism from a country that was literally upon the bruised, beaten and bloodied bodies of their slave ancestors; a movement that at the least awakened the otherwise deadened or stupefied moral consciousness of a nation that has yet to fully own, address and properly deal with the ghosts of its own demons of slavery, prejudice, racism, classism and bigotry. The relative semblance of equality that people of color enjoy now was purchased with the blood of many freedom fighters, Dr. King being perhaps the ‘north star’ in the vast constellation of freedom’s martyrs.
So it is with no small pain of heart and burden of mind that this writer takes umbrage at the racially insensitive, moronic, hypocritical, ill-advised and crudely-timed swipe at our nation’s first African-American President, Barack Hussein Obama, by one Mrs. Sarah Palin. She posted this greeting on her Facebook page earlier today:
Happy MLK, Jr. Day!
“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.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mr. President, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card.
Indeed, Mrs. Palin. Please go have a seat. If it is really Palin’s intention to end “any racial divide,” here is a five-step action she can implement herself to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
- Palin can work wonders to end the racial divide by refraining from making false, baseless allegations against President Barack Obama. If she really believes that he is “playing the race card,” prove it. After all, ‘innocent until proven guilty” is still a hallmark of American jurisprudence. Otherwise, she is just playing the same-old, race-baiting politics that caters to her Tea-publican base that (she hopes) can get her into the White House in 2016.
- This is a follow-up to number 1. Palin can do so much to end the racial divide by leading by example and weaning herself off of the ‘dog-whistle’ style, race-baiting politics that so many of her fellow Republican and Tea-publican politicians have used to get in office and stay in power. How many politicos have garnered votes at the ballot-box in their predominantly white, heavily-gerrymandered political precincts by using the same racist “Southern Strategy” playbook that swept Ronald Reagan into office? Anybody who is half-awake knows what demographic is being thrown under the bus when the party pundits drop their favorite key catch phrases “welfare reform,” “urban decay,” “states’ rights,” “entitlements,” et cetera. Sarah should take the higher moral ground that she promises and at least delete the surreptitious but no less harmful race-based talking points from her political bag of tricks.
- Another sure-fire strategic gem for ending the racial divide is to first acknowledge and own one’s own racist political actions and make the necessary change. One must be the change that s/he wants to see in the world.
- Taking the time to study, understand and appreciate cultural differences, rather than attempting to minimize or erase those differences, will further advance the cause of racial harmony. The dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. was of a world where Blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics and other non-Caucasian peoples would be accepted as they are, without having to curtsy to the dominant White male heteropatriarchy and play the “respectability” game or being the “exceptional minority.” By correctly understanding and appreciating cultural differences, and embracing diversity, this minimizes the possibility of co-opting or misappropriating a people’s culture/cultural markers for the sake of personal gain. Such as when those who have no real interest in advancing racial harmony take an opportunity to use MLK’s holiday and words to score political points with their base. Such racially insensitive actions throw salt in the still open and festering wounds of a people whose bodies, words and actions have perpetually been exploited for personal gain.
- For this moment, just one more recommendation for bridging the racial divide in America will suffice. Mrs. Palin, before you take your seat, Please encourage White America to deliver on what America has been promising to do since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, but has never really done: work to create an America where the playing field is truly level for all Americans, regardless of their race, color, creed or nationality; where the haves cannot and shall not take advantage of the haves; where the oppressive, divisive structures of the White male supremacist, imperialist, patriarchal privilege have been dismantled once and for all; and where every one, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, is truly equal and truly free.