As we celebrate the life of one of the greatest Americans, everyone seems to be asking this question: What would Martin Luther King Jr. fight for today?
New York Times Columnist Paul Krugman argues that income inequality and lack of upward mobility is the greatest injustice of today in the United States:
Yet if King could see America now, I believe that he would be disappointed, and feel that his work was nowhere near done. He dreamed of a nation in which his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” But what we actually became is a nation that judges people not by the color of their skin — or at least not as much as in the past — but by the size of their paychecks. And in America, more than in most other wealthy nations, the size of your paycheck is strongly correlated with the size of your father’s paycheck.
Goodbye Jim Crow, hello class system.
I think instead of asking what Dr. King would be doing in 2012, we should be asking what we can do in 2012. What cause do you believe in, what injustice will you fight, what dream do you have in 2012?
Krugman’s career is as an economist. It’s natural that he would see economic inequality in the United States as the biggest threat to justice. And many would agree with him.
We all pick our fights and causes based on our life experiences, educations, and careers.
In 1958 Dr. King addressed 26,000 high school students at en event in Washington D.C.:
Whatever career you may choose for yourself — doctor, lawyer, teacher — let me propose an avocation to be pursued along with it. Become a dedicated fighter for _______[fill in your cause here. He said civil rights], Make it a central part of your life.
It will make you a better doctor, a better lawyer, a better teacher. It will enrich your spirit as nothing else possibly can. It will give you the rare sense of nobility that can only spring from love and selflessly helping your fellow man. Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.
Make a career of humanity.
I love that.
No matter what your talents are, they can be used in some fashion to make the world a better place and help others. My mother-in-law is a hairdresser and a cancer survivor. In her small town she’s like a one-woman cancer support clinic. She does so much more than cut hair.
Diane Stevens owns a salon in Connecticut where she first heard about the violence and struggles in Sierra Leone. One of the stories that resonated with her was a hair stylist in the country who lost a leg, but still managed to stand all day and work. Diane was moved to do something. She went to Sierra Leone, gave makeovers and more importantly taught women how to style hair. She gave them a trade. She founded the Cinderella Foundation that seeks to “make dreams a reality for young ladies in our community, our nation, and around the world.”
Today isn’t about Dr. King; it’s about how he changed us and challenged us to make a difference no matter where we are and what we do.