Burying Dr. King’s Dream

“Our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20th for many in the States is a day of sleeping in, catching that movie on the “must see list,” and spending about 30 minutes thinking of the momentous impact of the life Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Although this is a testament to how far the U.S. has come from the painful pre-Civil Rights Movement, it also illustrates how well the mainstream has been able to downplay the conversation about race in the States and making it seem that we have become a “post-racial” society; especially when it comes to discussing the Millennial generation.

With the continuing existence of “yolo” culture, living a life of excess is not only presented as desirable, but attainable. With an 11.1% unemployment rate of 20-24 year olds, recent college grads are left in this drastic gap between the new American dream and reality. Most T.V. shows, movies, and music focus exclusively on the experience of the upper to upper middle class white demographic (a la Real Housewives or the Kardashians) or objectify the honest struggles of lower middle to lower class Americans (a la Teen Mom). With such an overload of superficial mainstream media, where is the space for showing a bit of the honest American experience, peppered with some people who are the new face of the United States?

By masking the reality of the life of the minority in the United States, we are burying the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In reality, he was just a member of a thousand person, decades long movement. However, his ability to move all kinds people to action created the catalyst the movement needed to end segregation and ultimately move the United States to a more equal society.

But what does this have to do with today’s conversation about race? Today, prejudice has evolved from violent crimes to more subtle exclusions from jobs, social gatherings, and justice. Just look to the reaction towards the recent verdict of the Trayvon Martin case to understand how deep are the wounds of modern racism in the United States. But much like every other major news story, it has faded away something that would surely disappoint Dr. King.

What is encouraging is the openness in which the Millennial generation approaches the discussion of race and diversity in the United States. Even though it doesn’t immediately change policy, talking about what it means to be a minority has the potential to change a mind at a time. Better representation in the media is slowly providing stronger role models to help frame the aspirations of younger generations. Change is painfully slow and requires constant attention or else we risk repeating our history.

ImageTallahassee, Florida 1963 – a demonstration outside a segregated theater.

Sacrificing for the Balance

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Photo provided by Flickr and Pink Sherbet Photography
 
With the taking down of the decorations and repairing whatever damage was incurred from the holidays, comes the familiar call to action to improve yourself with a new job, a new life; a new everything! For someone who has recently embarked on trying something new in a huge way, this kind of sent me into questioning the merits of changing everything in your life at a time that boasts the importance of tradition and things staying the same. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made the right choice in abandoning the privileges of First World life for to chase a dream that was providing more stress than that expected euphoric “I just mastered a this really cool trick” feeling. 

 

Then my friend Darrell Kinsel sent me this link to an NPR interview he was featured in and it hit me like a fatal coconut falling from the top of a tree: things are unbelievably difficult for our generation EVERY WHERE IN THE WORLD. Every one is making or has made incredible sacrifices just to nudge their careers forward, because that is what we have to do right now. Although we were promised this was going to be easy, and social media lets us portray our lives as flawless, beautiful and inspiring, there are an incredible amount of tears, self doubt, and drunken binges behind every story. Each person interviewed reminded the audience that our generation was handed an incredibly difficult hand and that things are going to take a lot longer to accomplish, but they can be accomplished. The shear optimism in every response was enough to get me to take a look around and realize that things are the way they are right now because they have to be, its an incredibly frustrating step on my path to go wherever I am supposed to be going. 

For me, I thought moving to Haiti would be easy since I have such strong family support and I’m was familiar with the country. I never dreamed that I would feel the void of the incredible friends that I left behind or come to expect the statement, we don’t have gas, desk planners, etc. because there’s a hold up somewhere in the supply chain. Though these things were unexpected, I know that I need the work experience and very few other places can offer it while I live with my grandmother and my uncle. This sacrifice is what I needed to do and it will pay off. In many ways, it already has. What have you sacrificed this past year so you can move your dream forward?