By Lawrence Scott MP
The legacy of Dr Martin Luther King was celebrated last Monday by people across the globe who believe in freedom, justice and equality.
The recent passing of Nelson Mandela marks the end of an era of iconic freedom fighters who served on the front lines of the war against injustice, prejudice, institutionalized racism and oppression; however, the struggle must and does continue.
Today, our children can:
• Go to whatever school they want
• Date and marry whoever they want
• Pursue any career they want
• Live wherever they want
Rarely, if ever, will they be subjected to and confronted by racist and demeaning comments.
Lawrence Scott is a graduate of the Gilbert Institute and Bermuda Institute and the Florida Air Academy High School. He attended Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and Lynn University where he received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a BSc. in Aviation Management and Flight Training. He is the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) representative for Warwick South East in Bermuda.
In that regard, the work of Dr Martin Luther King overseas and the Progressive Group at home has helped collectively to move the world to a fairer, more equitable place.
When we look at all that has been accomplished in Bermuda; in the United States of America the world has witnessed the election of an African-American president; in addition, these historic advances have been accompanied by the growth of black millionaires and billionaires. It would be easy to declare, and we could be forgiven for prematurely for declaring victory over racism and proclaiming it to be dead!
Unfortunately, while our children can go to whatever school they want, if they happen to graduate and be an alumnus of the "wrong" school they can be viewed as less capable ... less educated and, to some, less worthy.
While our children can pursue whatever career they want, too many are not guaranteed a fair wage -- for a fair day’s work.
While our children will probably never have someone call them a racist slur to their face, online racists, hidden under a cloak of anonymity, continue to demean, to disparage and to display their hatred towards people who don't look like them.
Many people interpret Dr Martin Luther King's dream simply as a vision of a world where "little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls." Yet the change he dreamed about was deeper and more substantive.
Dr King also taught us:
"We don't have to argue with everybody. We don't have to curse the darkness, and daily bemoan the dawn that follows. Indeed let our speech be laced with words of encouragement ... not punctuated with profanity and blasphemy. We don't need to take up arms against our brothers and sisters; instead let us reach out and take them by the hand and provide a hand up instead of a put down. No longer shall we be found attempting to level the walls of industry with Molotov cocktails; instead let us be found on the door step of the merchant and in the corridors of power declaring the positive message that:
"God has sent us by here, to say to you that you're not doing right by his children; proclaim as he did that the last shall be first; the haves must share with the have nots; and, as in Matthew 25:40, the King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"
The consequence will be both immediate and dramatic, the public agenda will become: fair treatment, where all of God's children are concerned.
"Let us not be satisfied until the walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice."
"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
"Many people of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation. They have deplored prejudice, but tolerated or ignored economic injustice.
“There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people in that society who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that that have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don't have it, the principles of natural justice that resides in the heart and soul of all men unconsciously wants to destroy it.”
Our forefathers and freedom fighters have brought Bermuda to a threshold where our children can someday soon walk together hand in hand; but, we still are a long way away from the full vision that Dr Martin Luther King had for us. It is easy to mouth the words of MLK and hold him up for being non-violent and his message of love in the face of hatred. It is much harder to embrace his vision of an economy free of social, economic and political injustice. As we celebrate Dr King, let us move beyond the superficial analysis of his dream, to a place where we are morally and intellectually committed to tearing down injustice wherever it dwells.