Summit Daily letters: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 13, 2017
Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the most influential voice in the struggle to end racial segregation and discrimination in America during the 1950s and 1960s. A national holiday honors him on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 16. Many people will have that day off from work or school, but will they take the time to reflect on what Dr. King stood for and why we should be concerned about the civil rights of all people? Here are a few ways to honor the legacy of Dr. King:
LEARN: The King Center website is a good resource for books by and about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. Watch the public TV series Eyes on the Prize on YouTube. Two Pulitzer Prize-winning books about King and civil rights are “Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963” by Taylor Branch and “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, The Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution,” by Diane McWhorter.
TEACH: Parents and teachers should help young people understand that the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was necessary because of our country’s history of slavery, segregation and institutionalized racism. Show children the “I Have a Dream” speech given by Dr. King during the March on Washington in 1963. Be sure to watch the entire 17 minute video of this compelling speech, available on YouTube. Encourage children to be tolerant of others and to stick up for those who are bullied or excluded.
VOLUNTEER: Dr. King was an inspirational voice in the civil rights movement but we should remember that this was a broad grassroots movement, dependent on ordinary citizens taking action. In the spirit of working with others to improve your community, consider volunteering with a local organization in 2017.
REFLECT: Consider the example set by Dr. King of how to use nonviolent direct confrontation to accomplish great social change. Spend 30 minutes to read his Letter from Birmingham Jail to gain a better understanding of King’s nonviolent philosophy for confronting injustice.
The most important way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy is to recognize that America is far from reaching King’s dream of racial harmony and an end to discrimination. Overt acts of individual racism are generally condemned by our society but we have difficulty recognizing institutional racism in our schools, law enforcement, workplace and housing industry. We must be vigilant to ensure that the progress we have made in upholding the civil rights of all citizens is not lost. Twenty states, including most of those that were part of the Confederacy, have imposed new voting restrictions since the 2010 elections. Cutbacks in early voting, fewer polling places, shorter voting hours, strict photo ID laws and restrictive registration laws disproportionately affect African Americans and other minorities. Segregation is worsening in U.S. schools. The proportion of schools in which 90 percent or more of the students are minorities has increased since 1988 from 5.7 percent to 18.4 percent.
Each of us should recognize our own biases and work toward building a society which lives up to Dr. King’s dream of all people being judged only by the content of their character. We can each strive to be kinder and treat others fairly in our workplaces, schools and communities. America is a stronger country when everyone has equal rights under the law and all people have the opportunity to lead productive, fulfilling lives.
For the next four years positive change must be initiated locally. I urge the Breckenridge Town Council to commit to making Breckenridge a 100 percent renewable energy town within ten years and to form a committee to create a plan to meet that goal.
The Trump administration denies climate change. Scott Pruitt, the selection for the EPA, is a shill for polluters. Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior is another climate change denier whose environmental voting record is scored at three percent by the League of Conservation Voters. We cannot wait on Washington.
So the biggest changes in how we live will be driven, not by a backward Washington, but by big cities and small towns like Breckenridge. Trump says he will “cancel” the Paris agreement that was adopted by more than 190 countries. However, cities, businesses and citizens can continue to reduce emissions and not let Washington stand in the way. I ask that Breckenridge join Aspen, Boulder, Pueblo, San Diego, Salt Lake City and other forward thinking cities in the commitment to 100 percent clean energy.
A clean energy transition has never been dependent on federal action. Town councils see it as a way to clean the air, save money, attract new businesses and make their communities healthier places to live and work. Don’t follow the national leadership. Let’s get this done locally.
Colorado Chapter of the Sierra Club
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