Fifty years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, there is still racial discrimination in our society. How do we move forward in an America that has a history such as this?
The death of Trayvon Martin has been in the national spotlight since that fateful night in Feb. 26,2012. The case even got attention from the President, who said, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
Elected officials, especially prominent national figures, have a responsibility to address significant issues facing our nation. Last month, George Zimmerman was found not guilty on charges brought against him for killing Trayvon Martin. Shortly after, President Obama surprised the press with a brief appearance addressing the outcome of the case. While listening to his comments, I had mixed feelings.
“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” said the President on July 19. “I think it is important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.
“There are very few African- American men in this country that haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping at a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.
“There are very few African- Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she has a chance to get off. That happens often. And I don’t want to exaggerate one night in happened And I don’t want to exaggerate the African-American community interprets what Florida. And it’s inescapable to bring those experiences to bear.”
There is no way I can sympathize with what the president said. I sought out the opinion of people who would be able to give first-hand experiences. Jean Murc and Samuel Laguerre sat down with the Socratic Segment. After reading the President’s statements above, Murc responded, “This kind of stuff does happen all the time. Whether you sit down next to a woman and she moves her purse to the other side of her chair, it happens to me, and it’s happened to President Obama.”
Laguerre agreed and added, “I am the only black person in one of my classes, and sometimes it feels as though people are watching what they say because I am there.”
After talking with Murc and Laguerre and listening to the President’s comments, I am not certain where we go from here. As we come to the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr.’s words seem to apply to today’s America. “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” King said.
There is still much more our nation needs to do moving forward into an increasingly diverse century. But one thing is for sure: We must all begin to look beyond whatever physical differences and see that we are all part of a global family of humans. The sooner our species grasps this concept, the better off we will be.
James is a sophomore majoring in political science. He enjoys bike rides and Florida sunsets.