What did you do on January 18?

With no classes and possibly no work, maybe you went out on Sunday night and used that Monday to sleep off a hangover. Maybe you just sat on your couch and binged on your favorite Netflix TV show. Maybe you went on an outdoor adventure with your friends or family. Whatever you did, you can thank Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Honestly, you can thank him for way more than schools being closed and a short work week. There’s a reason why his birthday is dubbed a national holiday. Sometimes I think people forget about that. I know I do.

Almost a half a century after his death, we celebrate and remember a man who changed America. MLK, as most of us know, had a dream. His aspirations went farther than being rich and famous.

He wanted to make real change in the way members of society viewed  each other. He wanted to end a race war and drive not just a race, but a nation toward a common goal. MLK gave a voice to those who otherwise were being ignored.

He accomplished what he set out to do, even after hate and a bullet ended his life, his work progressed and still does today.

George amaru / Art Director

George amaru / Art Director

Obtaining civil rights for African Americans after years of oppression is of course something to be remembered, but do we as a people really take notice of the impact almost 50 years later?

I know for me, I don’t think much of the differences in race. Each race has its own culture in a sense, but we’re all mixed together, sharing bits and pieces of our history and social tendencies.

We are all intertwined now. There is, for the most part, no segregation of blacks and whites. While there have been hiccups of racial tension throughout present day America, most people would agree that individuals of different races are in fact the same as anyone else, and therefore have no problem treating them as such.

Now that we as a country are relatively accustomed to racial integration, the idea of integration and what it meant at the time isn’t necessarily front and center in our minds.

It’s a part of everyday life. It’s no longer taboo and a large portion of Americans today, especially those in school and in the workforce, grew up going to school with people of different races and cultures.

I don’t think many white kids my age look at their friend of a different color and go “Wow, fifty years ago we probably wouldn’t be allowed to be friends.” Instead they leave that in the past and treat each other not as black or white, but as friends. I think that was the goal of Dr. King all along.

I’m not saying that MLK shouldn’t be recognized for what he’s done for this country and the human race. He most definitely should be.

However, I don’t see a problem with using January 18 to enjoy your life a little. That’s what Dr. King fought for. He wanted everybody to be able to enjoy their lives together, without race even being the slightest of issues. There’s still work to do in that aspect, but for the most part, I think he did what he set out to do.

I would recommend that before going to the club on MLK Day, you spend a little bit of time volunteering.  Even the smallest impact rings louder than your favorite Skrillex song.

Jacob Barrett can be contacted at jbarrett@kscequinox.com

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