by Ben Sheffler
It’s been 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington and gave his “I Have a Dream” speech and unfortunately, that dream hasn’t been fully realized.
In a Washington, D.C. march on Saturday, August 24, that commemorated the August 28, 1963 march, Martin Luther King III said, “The task is not done. The journey is not complete. We can and we must do more.”
And I agree.
A lot has changed since 1963: schools are integrated, people can sit wherever they choose on public buses and an African-American man is president of the U.S.
Pensacola State College took progressive action in 1965 by becoming the first junior college in Florida to integrate African-American and white students. The integration occurred when PSC merged with Booker T. Washington Junior College, which was built in 1949 as the first African-American junior college in Florida. It was said the merge was “smooth and peaceful” as approximately 200 African-American students arrived on the Pensacola campus.
But too many things haven’t changed; people are negatively profiled because they look a certain way (Trayvon Martin), violence ensues because of ethnic differences (gangs), racism is still prevalent and some people are still denied rights and equality (women and same-sex couples).
I don’t believe that the U.S. or any other country will ever achieve perfection, but is this as good as it’s going to get? Is it acceptable for a country to give people rights and promote equality, but to not give it in full and have its citizens remain loaded with hate, resentment and prejudice?
As King said in his famous speech, “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.”
I’m not sure how to solve the problem, but I would start by making sure everyone received a good education, which itself is another article for another day.
I believe through proper education, people learn to see the world differently and become more accepting of others, thus reducing prejudice and racism.
The late publisher Malcolm Forbes once said, “The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”
If people don’t think for themselves, then the racism and prejudice that exist today won’t disappear because they are learned behaviors that will be passed on to the next generation.
So, from a platform many times smaller than King had, I echo words from “I Have a Dream” that “now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
I commend the 1965 PSC administration for opening the school’s doors to everyone, and I’m proud to be a part of the current administration’s continuous effort to allow anyone to “get there from here.”
Maybe one day we will get to where King dreamt we could be.
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