The celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day must include a celebration of the many civil rights movements our country has experienced. From the women’s rights movement to racial equality, the United States has experienced many large strides toward becoming “a more perfect union” and embracing the idea of “freedom for all.” But while we do celebrate the achievements of activists like MLK Jr., we must also promise to continue their work.
One may easily forget that the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision occurred less than 60 years ago. The March on Washington will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. Women have not been afforded the right to vote for even 100 years. We live in an age when we are still experiencing change and growth of the utmost importance on a constant basis. Yet, following these advances, we encounter setbacks. Racial stereotypes still hinder society. Women are facing a war against their own bodies and choices. For each positive, forward step we take, a regression similarly occurs.
Currently, issues such as race, gender and sexual orientation, greatly affect our lives. And it is not likely that said issues will soon disappear. So, then, what is there to do? You can fight for equality in all aspects of life, or you can sit quietly and allow others to choose how to proceed. This year, Maine voters made clear that they expect and demand fairness with the approval of Question 1. But will this trend carry on? That depends, very pointedly, on the action we, as a society, are willing to take.
Are we willing to fight, through words and actions, much like the great Martin Luther King Jr.? Imagine, not only one man making a difference, but hundreds, or thousands. Imagine millions upon millions of men and women, black, white, tall, short, gay, straight, rich and poor standing together, fighting against inequality.
This is why we all must remember Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony and the many others who fought for just causes. We cannot accept mere celebration. We must respect and understand the holiday. To honor MLK Jr. in remembrance is one thing, but to honor him in action is another.
While you enjoy your day off from classes or work, be sure to remember those people who have fought for a country that can thrive without prejudice. And also, be sure to act. Fight for those causes that still need your support. Fight against those prejudices that still do run free. Be a part of the many changes that still must be made. But, most importantly, do not embrace apathy. Become your own leader, in whatever way, big or small. And, at the very least, never forget how we got to where we are today.