Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929. I know that was over 90 years ago, but that really does not seem that long ago, considering how far we’ve come as a country in those same 91 years. When Martin Luther King was born, The Great Depression had not yet occurred, World War II was about a decade away, and there were still plenty of living Civil War veterans.

And since January 15, 1929, we’ve progressed in several ways. For instance, technologically, this is a time that even adult Martin Luther King, Jr. would have issues understanding. The quality and ubiquity of televisions, everything about the home computer, the iPhone, movies, cancer treatments, medical equipment, whatever Elon Musk is doing at any given moment, etc. It’s unreal. Sometimes it’s shocking even to me and I was born in the 1980s.

But we’ve also progressed a great deal as a country. Voter suppression against minorities is not as rampant as it once was, there aren’t as many lingering stigmas about biracial marriage, LGBT issues, or “unconventional families.” We have had a Black president, we will have a Black-Asian-American female vice president in a few days, and US Census data indicates that minorities own about 6% of all businesses in the United States, an increase of about 34% over the past ten years.

That said, we still have a lot of work to do. No matter how you cut it, there are still systems in place that put Black Americans, as well as other racial minorities, at a distinct disadvantage. Disparity in criminal prosecutions, jail sentences, and underrepresentation at all levels of government are problems. Similarly, household income for Black families has not risen as swiftly as those of White families since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, in which Martin Luther King, Jr. was a driving force.

However, I believe in harvesting information both good and bad to use for strategic development going forward. For instance, we can be proud of the fact that an interracial couple no longer carries any sort of stigma or newsworthiness. But we can also be discouraged by the lack of economic development in largely minority communities. What we do with this information is critical for progressing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message of love, tolerance, and racial harmony.

These things and this information will hopefully allow us to grasp that we’re all on this earth together and we as humans do better when everyone does better. Economic development in Black communities will surely help those Black communities, but it will also have a positive impact on broader economic metrics.

So what can we as individuals do? Well, for starters, we can support small businesses, and specifically businesses owned by minorities. We can also contact political leaders if we have a problem with how a racial issue is being portrayed or debated. We can also simply strive to treat everyone a little better. Not to get too hippie-dippy here, but if we can all just treat each other with the decency and respect that we would hope to be shown ourselves, then things would be better.

Race should not be a big deal. It just shouldn’t be a big deal. Someone’s race should not dictate how they are treated, what things are available to them, and what inferences people will make about them. But, the world we live in is not that way, so for now what we must do is strive to treat people in a way such that race is not a big deal in the future.

So today, please take some time to reflect on Dr. King’s messages:

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

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

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

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day from Cosas Totum.

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