Although I still have class today because it’s a holiday that Canada doesn’t celebrate, I wanted to take the time to recognize a holiday that, without context, seems like a random day thrown in there where nobody works.
Even those of us who have heard countless times about the impact Martin Luther King, Jr. had on our history, it’s not necessarily something that we dwell on. It’s just another historical figure that obviously made a difference to life as we know it today, but I don’t feel a particular draw to him.
I feel this year’s observance of this holiday is a tad different than past years. We are in the depths of events that aren’t exactly what Dr. King was imagining for our world. These events may not look like two separate water fountains or bus boycotts, but they look like protests in the streets and hashtags on Twitter. Our fight against injustice will never end.
Dr. King inspires us to speak out. Personally, I always feel awkward dabbling into these types of subjects because I feel I have less to say. I wish I could empathize more, I could find more experience behind my words, but I am privileged. I am in a group of people who has not been on the frontlines of prejudice nor violence. I have never felt like a minority. Even in times where I feel alone, I know that I never am. Not everyone can say that.
Despite my privilege, I am called to help others. I aim to use my words for good. I want to learn more about others and gain new perspectives. I also refuse to judge others without gaining their perspective and trying to step inside their shoes. Ignorance plays a key role in misunderstanding or mistreating others. Stubbornly putting on our blinders is a major catalyst in furthering the divide between “us” and “them.” We look at others’ lives, we make assumptions and critiques, and it goes downhill from there.
These past couple of years have been interesting, to say the least. Interesting is not appropriate enough to describe it. At the same time as American mass shootings and Syrian civil wars, we also see people refusing to sit quietly, refusing to let strangers tell their own stories, refusing to choose victimization over awareness and empowerment.
Last year was a difficult one for many people. But when we focus entirely on the negative, we forget that humanity has plenty of flaws, but we are innately good. We want the best for ourselves and each other, something that looks different for every individual. When we look at the big picture and see how far we have already come, especially from Dr. King’s life, I think our accomplishments are remarkable. As long as we continue the momentum and drive toward peace and good will, I’d like to think we can make progress every day. Every moment is an opportunity.
We rally together for messages of feminism, for movements like Black Lives Matter. We march in the street against figures reflecting injustice. We bring attention to struggling friends near and far. We fight against everyday stigmas and challenge the status quo. We choose nonviolent forms of protest to spark change.
The grey area between black and white has certainly expanded our vision. We have begun to learn more about the wide spectrum of races, genders, sexualities and backgrounds. And as we open our eyes, we see more of the less-than-beautiful things, too. Modern life and technology allows us to see an entire world that suffers. The most important thing to remember, however, is that suffering does not define us as a human race. We race instead toward a brighter future. We reach out to those in need. We gather our time, energy, and resources for causes that deserve recognition.
In those ways, we can honor Dr. King on this day. We realize that we have a long way to go from reaching a mountaintop promoting equality and justice for all. It’s overly optimistic to say we will reach some abstract end goal within a vague amount of time. We are not trying to win a race here. We are trying to make the world a better place.
Dr. King had a dream. We all have a dream for ourselves. And we have a dream for the world. There is no reason why we cannot work to reach that. It doesn’t have to be some big gesture. Really, the simplest but most effective gestures is kindness, respect toward every person you cross, and open-mindedness.
I don’t expect to leave an impact as profound as Dr. King’s. All I truly want for my life is to touch others’ lives in the most positive life I can and leave this place better than I found it. However I plan to do that, who knows, but I can only hope that whatever difference I can make is one of peace.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie