2008-05-02 / Columns


Love thy neighbor as thyself ...

When Martin Luther King Jr. made his "I Have A Dream" speech on the steps of the Washington Monument in 1963, his hope was that all men regardless of race, color or creed, would have equal opportunities for success.

For the most part, the good doctor's wishes have come true. Look around and you will see the unity among American citizens working together for a common goal though King has been gone for more than 40 years.

However, with the recent acquittal of three New York City policemen in the 2006 shooting death of Sean Bell, the opinion of some within the African-American population is whether seeds of racism have reappeared.

The 23-year-old was killed outside of a Queens strip club in 2006 as he was leaving his bachelor party with two friends. He was to be married hours later.

The three officers had been accused of firing 50 bullets at Bell, claiming that he or one of his acquaintances was in possession of a firearm.

Though the U.S. attorney's office said it will look into the case and will take action "if evidence indicates a prosecutable violation of civil rights statutes," I do not know if that is enough to sway millions across the country still seething from what occurred in Jena, Miss. over the past two years.

Six black youths from the rural Mississippi town were charged with a number of counts ranging to as serious as attempted murder following the beating of Justin Barker, a classmate of theirs at Jena High School.

Thousands of protesters stormed the town September of last year with the belief that serious charges were motivated by racial tension involving the use of words, gestures and symbols, such as a noose hanging from a tree on school grounds.

That day in late September was termed as one of the "largest civil rights demonstrations in years," with several others being held across the country on the same day.

Unfortunately, these two incidents are only the tip of the iceberg, with thousands of others not receiving as much media coverage.

These two incidents are very troubling, and without a doubt are cause for concern. Additionally, while speaking with several friends and family back home in Columbia, the common sentiment among most of them was that the country is on its way toward another race war.

However, think about the entire population of the United States - do you believe that everyone has the same issue with another race portrayed by the policemen in New York or the teenagers in Jena?

I believe not.

There is still a long way to go in terms of every man standing together in the name of unity, though I know we have come a long way. But go to school yards, athletic events, churches and the most common place - your job. There is a diverse melting pot mixing a wealth of cultures and people.

Growing up as a military kid taught me about these key issues, with each one of us - a melting pot brought together - depending upon the other. In my mind, that is a nugget of wisdom we all can chew on.

A well known scripture in the Bible commands us to "love our neighbor as we love ourselves." The rigors of this "dogeat dog" world can cause us to forget these instructions at times, making us think more about "me" rather than "we."

When we learn to take the "I" out of team, then all of us as Americans and people can advance. After all, our purpose while on this Earth is to make the most of our lives but also to leave the world in a better condition than we found it for the generations that come after us.

Unless we find a way to bridge the gaps that divide us, I believe we have yet to complete the assignment left by Dr. King to all of us so many years ago.

Joe L. Hughes II writes feature and enterprise

stories for The Gaffney Ledger.

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