21 January 2008

Character, Not Color

On this day, we are reminded of the impact of a single person, Martin Luther King Jr., and his effect on the civil rights movement in America. While some would argue that he was a great black leader, I would differ. I would say rather that he was a great leader, a visionary leader, who sought to transcend race. This is evidenced in a single sentence from his “I Have a Dream” speech:

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.
The point here is to transcend the idea of race as a factor in interpersonal relations. It is not that race matters less than character but rather that race does not matter; character does. This is a dangerous idea.

If skin color doesn’t matter, then people are required to search deeper, to get to know one another, in order to judge each other (and, incidentally, we all judge one another). It takes time, effort, and communication. What’s more, it takes thought, and that is what judging by race is supposed to relieve. Pre-judging means less thinking. It is a form of laziness that we all – regardless of color or creed – fall into from time to time. King’s famous and formidable idea reminds us all to take the more difficult path and get to know one another. Only then, when we know each other’s character, can we really judge.

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