As a black man, this is what I'd tell Dr. King about race relations in America today.

On the surface, it appears we have a long way to go to realize Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Photo by J. Wilde/Hulton Archives/Getty Images.

In my opinion, Dr. King is easily one of the top five most important and influential Americans who ever lived in this great land. 

But even though he had a big dream during the civil rights movement, some are left wondering how much we’ve actually accomplished in regards to race relations in America. 


Eric Garner. 

Trayvon Martin. 

Tamir Rice.

The list goes on and on.

Along with a whole lot of Americans who want police to treat citizens equally, these individuals who protested the police shooting of Tamir Rice probably aren’t pleased with the state of race relations in our country today. Photo by Angela Merendino/Getty Images News.

And of course there’s this guy.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom.

We now live in a country where a former white supremacist can dedicate his life to ending racism.

We now live in a country where we can marry or date people outside of our race and more often than not, people are cool with it.

Heck, we now live in a country where our president is half-black (even though a lot of racism is thrown his way). 

Who would’ve saw that coming during Dr. King’s time?

President Obama knows the deal.

Progress is being made.

But let’s take a quick trip back into the past to learn how we can positively affect the future.

My mom grew up in the deep south of Mississippi and my dad moved to America from Africa when he was a teenager to pursue his Ph.D. The horrific stories of racism they experienced still haunt me to this day.

But they admired Dr. King for the grace he demonstrated as he rose above the noise, racism, and discrimination — and because of that, my parents followed his lead. As my dad once told me, “If Dr. King can handle the immense hatred he experienced with such class and dignity, anyone can.”

My mom followed up by saying, “We raised you and your brothers to be the same way.”

Dr. King was a role model to many, including my parents. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

That’s the key. 

If we want a world where humans treat each other well, we should start with the tiny humans we’re responsible for raising.

It’s easy to get discouraged by the racism we see in the media and in some communities, but we should shift our focus to something more productive. Namely, teaching our kids to be empathetic, kind, and tolerant, because they hold the key to the future. 

And let’s keep it real — children will play with anyone until an adult tells them not to, or negatively influences their opinions about people who are “different” from them.

We could learn a lot about love and tolerance if we looked through the eyes of our children. Photo by Thirsties Modern Cloth Diapers, used with permission.

It’s not about teaching our kids to be color-blind either. It’s about teaching our kids to embrace each other’s differences and recognize how cool those differences really are.

A common misconception is that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a holiday just for black people. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.”

This is a day for people who believe in equality and wish to end discrimination in all its forms. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Latino, Asian, short, tall, overweight, mentally or physically disabled, gay/lesbian, transgender, Muslim, Jewish, female, poor, old, a recovering addict, covered in tattoos, “nerdy,” etc. 

If you’ve experienced discrimination and wish to be viewed based on your merits instead of the other stuff, then Dr. King fought for you too. 

There are some citizens and politicians in America who want to stop Muslims from coming into our country. I doubt Dr. King would be too happy about that. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

As a writer, do I take pride in the fact that the overwhelming majority of people who love (or don’t love) my style couldn’t give a rat’s rear end about my skin color? You bet, I do.

“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.”

This holiday means a lot to me — and if you believe in equality for everyone, I hope it means a lot to you, as well.

Let’s do our part to keep Dr. King’s dream alive. 

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you to go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.”

Photo by Reg Lancaster/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

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