Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day, and is observed throughout all of the United States. The significance can’t be overstated that MLK was an influential and important member of society, but it seems that most people now only have the basic facts of him. Most people know that he was a preacher and lead the civil rights movement between the late 1950’s and the 1960’s, but that seems to be the overarching knowledge of the American population. While I don’t have much more knowledge than the greater population, I understand the massive significance it has had on our history. What strikes me as horrible is that the problem of race should have been solved centuries ago.
I believe that racism only exists because the aggressors are taught to hate from a young age, but did not hold those feelings before. This is especially prevalent in the Deep South where angry sentiments still exist. While not completely saturated in aggression, the Deep South has managed to make a name for itself for being highly exclusive. I remember, when learning about American History back in high school that my teacher had explained why slavery was present. He said that the only way a person can hurt another person is to dehumanize that person first. This is especially important in noticing how humans deal with confrontation because the opposite force is seen as inhuman-as animals. Specific examples include the anti-Japanese propaganda issued during World War 2, the pseudoscientific declaration of animatistic features of Jews in the same time period, and what we had during slavery. It is important to note that this use of dehumanization is still present today in the propaganda North Korea issues to its citizen’s about the Western World aside from other dictatorships, and authoritarian regimes. Many other examples exist today, it just takes a quick step back to realize the purpose of the media. (Zombie movies and creature/monster movies prey upon this fact because we love watching a “monster” being killed, but are more hesitant with death when it comes to humanized death such as Lenny in Of Mice and Men.)
However, as horrible as dehumanization is, there is no other way for wars and conflicts to be fought. If say, a soldier viewed an enemy soldier to be his equal, then it would be a lot harder to kill that person. The soldier would wonder about the enemy’s kids, their loved ones, their passions, their goals, their aspirations, and many other things that combine to create a complex human being. Now, if that same soldier dehumanized the enemy, it is far easier to kill. In their mind, it is like killing a bug, or something without a conscious mind. This fact of dehumanization makes its appearance in absolutely every single horrible act towards a person or a group of people. Quite simply, dehumanizing someone involves the “fact based” confirmation that they are inferior to the aggressor. Knowing this is vitally important in considering the issue of racism and segregation in the United States.
We have seen that the first and ultimately most effective use of dehumanization is the issue of skin color. If someone looks different from you, and you are a competent and critical thinking human being, then by simple elimination, they must not be. At least, this is the shaky argument that unconsciously runs through a person’s mind when they consider another race. The use of skin color as an explanation is the laziest, but easiest way for aggressors to reason away their conscious. Sadly, this has metastasized into torture, slavery, and horribly inhumane acts. That is why the world needs people as brave, strong, and passionate as MLK. He managed to unite a country to change its inherited values to become a more inclusive place. Racism is in the United States’ blood, and unfortunately we cannot erase that fact. Because if we did, there would be no way for anyone to learn from our mistakes-we would devolve into a society based off of fear and hate.
Unfortunately, MLK did not stop racism. It continues today through systematic incarceration of predominantly black communities. (I will delve into this subject in my later blogs, but essentially the way the jail system was intentionally created racist.) We had hoped Abraham Lincoln would abolish slavery and with it: racism. We had hoped MLK would desegregate the United States and with it: racism. But if that were true, we wouldn’t have important organizations such as the Black Lives Matter movement.
I don’t believe that racism will ever fully be abolished. We may try to implement measures to make up for it, we may deny it’s existence, but it will be ever-present. We should be celebrating differences, and not using them to hate another. We at least have to try-not only try but put so much energy into it that we are constantly reminded of its presence. As a society, we have progressed, and it is our job to keep pushing this world forward.
And above all, happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
(While not necessarily mentioned people such as Rosa Parks,Elizabeth Peratrovich, Malcolm X, and loads of other figures have greatly influenced the issues stated above.)
(While my references serve to compliment my argument, they are their own works that delve deeper and more critically into the smaller subjects they pursue. My mission is to try to cogently connect these ideas into a new and holistic viewpoint that looks at the broader image I tackle.)