BY ZOE AMOS
“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.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have a dream, too. In my dream, people of all nations and ethnicities are not judged by the color of their skin. They are not judged by any aspect of their appearance. They are not judged by their profession. They are not judged by their sex or gender, be it male, female, androgynous, in flux or uncertain. They are not judged by their sexual orientation, sexual preference, sexual fetish or sexual anything. Truly, when you consider human rights, why must you judge at all? Forget appearance, profession, ethnicity, gender, etc., and jump to the important aspect in Dr. King’s statement–the “content of their character.” If there is to be any judgment, it lies here.
Your birthright is random. You didn’t choose where you were born or into what body. You didn’t pick your parents or socio-economic status. As children, you didn’t call the shots. At adulthood, perhaps earlier, that changed because you were born with free will. You choose to be the person you want to be. You can rise up through hard work and develop your character–professionally and personally–whether you came from the suburbs or the barrio, or squander your opportunities despite being born into wealth.
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream that one day pay equity for women will be a reality. Corporations find legal ways to pay women less and to keep them from advancing in their careers. What is legal is not necessarily what is right. Slavery used to be legal. Lives were ruined during the McCarthy era with the blessing of the government. As Dr. King reminded us, “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
I have a dream that one day all people will be given equal rights. And by this, I don’t mean the same rights oppressors currently use to lord over others. The fight for gender identity equality continues so that transgender people can rent an apartment or keep a job. The fight for marriage equality is making progress with over a dozen states enacting positive change. Gains are lost and re-established with the speed of a tennis game. You cheer for the point won, and groan at the next volley when the score is reversed. Utah, really? You stay in the game because everyone deserves equal rights today.
“A right delayed is a right denied.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In the United States you have freedoms. You can pursue happiness, though there is no guarantee you will find it. In this country, you enjoy more rights than many others around the world, yet judgments enacted by those in power continue to oppress certain demographic segments. The constitution is a living document, amendable as we see fit, and there will always be politicians and corporate big-wigs who see fit to keep certain members of our society oppressed.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
One of the hallmarks of oppression is the oppressed are so busy trying to make ends meet, they have little time to fight. It’s exhausting to put energy into righting wrongs when your emphasis is putting food on the table and staying warm. Or you may not be personally bothered enough to do anything and sit on the sidelines while others take up the challenge.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Silence does nothing to change the status quo. Even a small gesture, such as sharing an inspirational quote by Dr. King on Facebook, can make a difference. It’s what spurred me to write this article. There is an action you can perform and I suggest you do it, because this is the content of your character, whether or not you are judged. Most of us aren’t able to make a speech like Martin Luther King, but we can take his words and use them for the greater good.
Editor’s Note: This piece was to run in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 20th, but was delayed due to technical difficulties.
Zoe Amos brings her lesbian point of view to articles and stories on diverse topics. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. “Superior” a novella, is now available on Amazon. Read her short stories on Kindle and Nook. Check out her other life at: www.janetfwilliams.com.