Column: MLK Day is a time to pay attention

January 15, 2019

It happens all the time.

A person tells a racist joke or, more likely, se le sale un one-liner making fun of a person of color. It wasn’t meant as a political statement, but it was ugly nonetheless and, now, everyone is a little bit uncomfortable. Or, worse yet, everyone laughs and only one person is uncomfortable.

Perhaps the discomfort comes not from a joke, but from a particular vibe at work. Or at school. Or from the neighbors.

Or maybe the fear comes from a deeper place. Maybe the fear to be the only one of your kind in the room keeps you from doing the things you know will make life better. You want to change, you want to be brave, you want to believe that in 2019, we’ve moved beyond issues of race. Then something happens — a news story, a dismissive conversation, a rude remark — to remind you that we have not, y te agüitas.

In 1963, civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. talked about this. He talked about a dream of a better America, a nation in which people were all treated not according to the color of their skin, but for the content of their character. That was more than half a century ago, yet things still happen that make us wonder if we’re capable of changing.

This week, as we prepare to celebrate MLK day in San Antonio, we are moving in the direction of change with DreamWeek, a series of mostly free events linked by the common desire to advance the ideas of tolerance, equality and diversity put forth by King. A speaker series, concerts, worship services, art exhibits, sporting events, movie screenings and much more will provide San Antonians with a chance to get involved, listen and learn what each one of us can do so we can all put inequality behind us. Included, of course, is the Martin Luther King Jr. march on Monday, as well as get togethers explaining to young people why it is they are gathering to march.

MLK Day is an American holiday celebrating a dream for the equality of everyone. It’s not about skin color, gender or citizenship; it’s a todos parejos thing. It’s celebrating the idea that despite our differences, we are all fundamentally alike in what we want and need to thrive. It’s something we should all know about and understand.

It’s something we should try to understand all of the time. At the very least, on MLK Day, we ought to pay attention.

For a list of DreamWeek activities, go to dreamweek.org/events/


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