Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Kind of Have a Dream

A short while back it was 40 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. died. At the day of his death I started thinking about his famous “I have a dream”-speech, and about my own dream. I decided to try to write it down here.

It will soon be 45 years since Martin Luther King made his most famous speech about his dream for change.

Since the days when he made that speech we actually have seen change in the world.

It would be a blatant lie to say that the entire world has risen to the cause of ending bigotry, but we’ve seen the slow, cumbersome wheels of social change turn.

Thankfully, the conditions that King spoke of can now confidently be said to be a thing of the past. The open, horrible bigotry and oppression that existed in those days is now almost unthinkable. But, even so, racism and bigotry is sadly still far, far from dead. I still see it everywhere.

I see black people being subjected to milder variants of the same bigotry, hatred, harassment and subjugation that they have been subjected to for centuries.

I see people being incessantly harassed because they “look Middle Eastern.”

I see examples of vitriolic anti-homosexual and anti-transsexual bigotry everywhere.

I see Asians continually subjected to racist stereotyping and hateful speech.

In this day and age, in some of the most progressive countries in the world, I still see women being treated like second-class citizens; I see them getting paid less and I see them treated as if they were worth and capable of less.

I see people who are considered ugly or overweight, by some people’s seemingly arbitrary standards, being treated as if their physical appearance makes them stupid and worthless.

I see people of all walks of life that express fear and hatred towards people whom they consider to be “different” than themselves.

When I see all this small-minded bigotry all around me, I die a little inside. I would have expected the human race to be able to get past that sort of thinking more easily.

I would have thought that the inalienable rights of all people, which are so often mentioned by great speakers, should be so self-evident that people would treat everyone with the same respect that they demand for themselves. But still, the bigotry remains.

Most of all I see all this bigotry as a symptom of a dangerous “us versus them”-mentality.

People are still all too quick to associate and relate only to those who share a superficial likeness with them. People who, for instance, have the same skin color, the same nationality or the same gender as yourself are assumed to have other things in common too, while those who don’t share those attributes are assumed to be different.

Well, like the late Martin Luther King, I kind of have a dream, too.

I dream of a world where there is no longer any need for brilliant orations like King’s speeches.

I dream of a future when such things are firmly put behind us as a thing belonging to the past, only remembered to remind us not to go back to the foolish way we used to act.

I dream of a time when each and every person exclaims with pride and conviction “I am a minority of one, and so is everyone else.”

In my dream people stop automatically considering themselves a part of a group just because they happen to have been born in the same country or with the same skin color.

In my dream people say “I am myself with my own thoughts and ideas. I am not defined by my group; I am not my nationality, nor am I my gender, my skin color or creed. No matter what group I am born or joined into I am still myself, a unique individual, and so is everyone else. I can not be judged based on my group, and neither can they. I am just as likely to have things in common with someone outside of my group, as with someone in it.”

This world of my dreams would be considered a sad place by many. Many think that it’s sad if you don’t feel an automatic connection to those who happen to have been born into the same group of people as you.

I say that it shouldn’t be considered a sad thing at all.

I say that if we stop concentrating on the broad, obvious similarities such as skin color, we are freer to explore the smaller, but more important, similarities between us; to explore the similarities that can be found between humans anywhere, of any culture, appearance or gender.

I say that we should learn to celebrate the things that bind us together, and explore similarity of thought and ideas, instead of dwelling on superficial things that set us apart. I want us to realize that skin color and other such attributes are simply things we are born with; they do not define us. The important things are those we do after we are born.

Modern societies of freedom and law usually condemn acts of bigotry. There are laws protecting minorities and laws against persecution and hate speech. This is good, but some people see it as enough.

I say that it is not enough.

In my dream people don’t act civil against people different than themselves simply to be law-abiding.

In my dream there is a lack of bigotry not from law and decree, but from understanding and communication.

In my dream we live in a world where we can look upon and treat people, judge, reward and punish them according to their actions and who they are, not what they look like or any other superficial, unimportant qualities.

King said “I have a dream that my four little 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.”

Those words are as important today as they were then. And I have a dream that we will soon live in a world like that.