Monday, March 31, 2014

‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ and President Obama’s ‘Race Speech’

It seems as though injustice is threaded into the fabric of existence. Whether it be the inexcusable distribution of incarceration, the glass ceiling a black man hits when applying for a job, or the refusal of medical treatment when a nurse discovers there is no insurance. It’s unavoidable and seemingly constant. 

It’s unrealistic to believe that total equality can be achieved. Although disappointing and discouraging, there will be no day when the past can be corrected or the human race will have another go at writing their history, and even more importantly, there will never be a day when the reflection of our history will not burn in some way or another. People are often hesitant or reluctant to blatantly discuss American history. Words like slavery or racism are seldom seen outside of a textbook or heard outside of a classroom, which in some ways reinforces the idea that it is just that; educational. I strive to argue the contrary.  

In no way are the horrors faced by certain ethnic groups in America meant to serve as fairy tales or folklore. History has come and history has gone and history is being made this very moment, but both the oppression and oppressed prevail. With that said, it should be every Americans goal to move towards a greater future and more equal existence, but very often the resentment and bitterness of the past prevents us in creating new bonds and progress. The black community, forever reminded of the oppression of slavery and Jim Crow south, and the recent bitterness developed by the white community, feeling as though they are somehow punished for the actions of their ancestors. Feelings such as these— and many more— serve as a locked gate that shuts out any concept of understanding and hope, but this lock can be lifted. 

Living in a colorblind society has been the most detrimental implementation when it comes to equality of the races. History is an integral part in a racial group and culture, and ignoring the ups and downs of a racial group is in no way conducive to it’s progression into the future. In Obama’s words, “race is an issue that this nation cannot afford to ignore.”
This color-blind disposition and refusal to understand one another is the very blockage we face as a nation. As made evident in Dr. King’s letter, oppression was an integral part of American history, and made evident by President Obama, oppression is still present this very day. The reflection of these two monumental leaders paints a picture of the past and present, and the images bear unsettling resemblance. Obama speaks of the fluctuating freedoms when it comes to health care, employment, and education, but greatly expands on the necessity of unity. 

It seems so fundamental, but the greatest and most challenging problem our nation has faced throughout history is the necessity of unity. Whether it be in gender, race, religion, or more presently, sexuality, America is somewhat inept at allowing all of its citizens the freedom of an  equal life. 

Martin Luther King exclaimed, “Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider” and Barack Obama said, “Not this time” in response to the division of our nation, but each speak of the need of unity if America strives for a more cohesive and equal union. Both amazing men speak the truth, but words alone are not enough. It is not enough to recognize racism in history, we must recognize racism as alive today. It is not enough to recognize social inequality a thing of the past, when almost all forms of social programs today are segregated and unequal. It is not enough to speak of unity, when your very actions contradict this claim. We, as a nation, and as uncomfortable as it may be, must face these issues and overcome the dissonance in our present-day society. America: the self-proclaimed ‘land of the free’; its about time we own up to our name. 

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