civil rights equality in this country, but we sure can profit from his
words and his passion and his dedication, which get resurrected at
least once every year.
“Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial
injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make
justice a reality for all of God’s children,” King said in his famous
“I have a dream” speech. “In the process of gaining our rightful
place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to
satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness
and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of
dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to
degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to
the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
Wow! Why can’t we as a country, even of disparate peoples, get and
internalize that inspiring message?
Unfortunately, in the quest for so-called equality, some people make
issues where none exist. There are those who look around and see
certain people attending the really good (read that — for now — as
“expensive”) schools and wonder why they can’t have that same
“opportunity.” There are those who come out of school and get the
“good” jobs, and all those others who wonder why they have to start
their career somewhere around the “Hamburger Queen” rung of the
business ladder. And there are those who don’t even get the interviews
for the possibility of getting those “good” jobs.
I once heard someone ask this question: What do you call a person who
graduates last in his class at medical school? The answer, of course,
is “Doctor.” The point being that some are at the top of the class and
some at the bottom and all the rest are in the middle. But to even get
into medical school, one must meet the requirements. Let’s be brutally
honest here: Which would we prefer to have as our personal doctor,
with no other value to go on: The one at the top of the class or the
one at the bottom? Now take this example to an even further extreme:
What if the school started accepting anyone who applied — whether they
met the requirements or not? (One would find the bottom of the class
falling out to accommodate an even lower bottom.) Students who merely
squeaked by before would now blatantly fail in everything with
abysmally low grades… Yet perhaps due to some forced-upon-them
policy of “equality,” those students without a clue might have to get
moved along to graduation just as some students now in the elementary,
secondary and even high schools get moved along to graduation. The
difference, however, between being “moved along” in a medical school
and some other school is that in the one case it might mean the
difference between life and death.
I am a firm believer in the idea that if you can do the job, you ought
to be able to apply for it and have an equal chance at vying for it,
all other things being equal (you must meet the pre-set requirements
or at least prove why they should not apply to you, and so forth).
Just because there is no other person of your race or sex working at
that company should not give you extra points in the preferential
treatment department to make you a shoe-in if you don’t qualify. If,
however, you qualify as much as the next guy (or gal), and it is
merely a case of choosing the next guy or you, what do you think “fair
play” would suggest?
Equality is a sure “hot button” issue on many levels. Sometimes,
unfortunately, the issue is forged into a weapon to be wielded where
there isn’t even a skirmish, let alone a war.
When any one of us is denied admittance to a school, a program, a job
— or anything that requires we qualify for it on some level — and we
DO qualify for it, and yet we are not allowed to vie for it along with
all the other qualified contenders, that kind of civil inequality
deserves all the attention it can get. If, however, we are merely
reacting to not being able to compete (because we do not qualify for
that competition), it just waters down what civil rights equality
really means. Even those demanding said “equality” to get into that
medical school would not choose a doctor for their own mother from the
under-qualified graduates that were just “moved along” because of
public or private pressure, as opposed to those who earn their way to
graduation by virtue of their competency, talent, ability, and grades.
There are enough issues where civil rights equality is a genuine
concern without inventing them. Many individuals over the years have
taken up the cause and made their voices heard — voices that thank
goodness are still being heard because we all know true inequality
when we feel it.
Martin Luther King Jr. had convictions that served his dream 365 days
a year. What he believed in was not and is not something to think
about just one day a year. He died for his dream, for his convictions,
just as others have suffered greatly for theirs.
Dr. King might not mind sharing his day with the likes of Susan B.
Anthony (who said in court, “May it please your honour, I will never
pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess
is a debt of $10,000, incurred by publishing my paper — The Revolution
— the sole object of which was to educate all women to do precisely as
I have done, rebel against your man-made, unjust, unconstitutional
forms of law, which tax, fine, imprison and hang women, while denying
them the right of representation in the government; and I will work on
with might and mine to pay every dollar of that honest debt, but not a
penny shall go to this unjust claim. And I shall earnestly and
persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition
of the old Revolutionary maxim, ‘Resistance to tyranny is obedience to
God.’”); or with Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat to a
white man that historic day in 1955, in Montgomery, Ala., leading to a
boycott of the Montgomery bus system. “When I made that decision,” she
said later, “I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me.”
The Montgomery Improvement Association, which organized the boycott,
chose Martin Luther King Jr. as their leader. This boycott was the
beginning of a revolutionary era of non-violent mass protests in
support of civil rights in the United States.
All those who stood up for equality and civil rights in their time
have made the way a little easier for all those who followed in their
And of all the faces of civil rights equality over the years, the
non-violent ones are still the most beautiful!
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She
writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at email@example.com.