Column: Learning from the past for the uncertain future

This morning, like every morning, I woke up and sat down on my computer to check my e-mail before I started getting ready for the day. I opened my browser and saw Google’s home page displayed. For every holiday, Google has a “Doodle” that compliments that holiday. Today, as I hope most of you know, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Doodle today on Google’s home page is of six people, all different races, holding hands.

I clicked on the Doodle to see the details—the artist, the description of the photo, etc., and here’s what it says:

“Today’s Doodle, by guest artist Keith Mallett, captures one of the major themes of King’s speeches and writing: unity. ‘All life is interrelated,’ he said. ‘We are all made to live together.’ King urged Americans of all races to keep ‘working toward a world of brotherhood, cooperation, and peace.’

Martin Luther King Jr. may seem like the sort of leader who comes along only once every century or so, but King himself would disagree with that notion. He taught that we are all capable of lighting the way to ‘the bright daybreak of freedom and justice,’ and that we can unite to show that ‘love is the most durable power in the world.’”

We are all made to live together.

We are all made to live together.

We are all made to live together.

I kept repeating that in my head, like it was some sort of foreign phrase I was trying to make sense of. Like these words weren’t really supposed to come together to make a sentence. Like someone was trying to convince me that this is true, because we’re living in a world that’s dividing itself in two.

We are living in a world of people who feel entitled, a world where it has become socially acceptable — and often applauded — to stand beside racism, islamophobia and xenophobia. A world full of bigotry and intolerance.

That’s when I realized that this may be one of the most important MLK Day’s I’ve been alive to witness. Don’t get me wrong, his teachings carry the same importance everyday, but this is the last MLK Day that our first black president, Barack Obama, will be in office. This is a day that honors a leader who taught compassion and preached justice in a time our country is lacking both. This is a day where his teachings aren’t just artifacts and triumphs of history, but real and relatable.

The things we, as a society, are letting happen before our eyes seem so far away to some people. The entitlement people are feeling and the way they are translating that into their lives is so surreal to me. This is not normal. I cannot stress this enough. I want to yell it at the top of my lungs. I want to tell it to everyone I know. This is not normal.

In King’s biography, he wrote about his fear of Republican candidate Berry Goldwater and the effects his presidency would have on American people and their lives in regards to injustice, racism and hate.

“While not himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulated a philosophy which gave aid and comfort to the racist,” King wrote. “His candidacy and philosophy would serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes would stand.”

Some of you may have just read over that, and it may have meant nothing to you. Some of you, including myself, mumbled every single word and each one carried the same amount of weight and sentiment as it rolled off of your tongue. This peculiar feeling of eerie familiarity.

I’m scared of this entitlement individuals feel that they have towards minorities and those who are discriminated against. I’m scared people are getting this “green light” telling them that it’s okay to hate, telling them that they can’t practice — in peace — their constitutional rights.

“America, be true to what you said on paper,” King said. “If I lived in China or even Russia or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of some basic First Amendment privileges because they haven’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read about the Freedom of Assembly. Somewhere I read of the Freedom of Speech. Somewhere I read of the Freedom of Press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights. So, just as I say that we aren’t going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around.”

I’m not here to preach politics — you can do a quick Google search and go through the copious amounts of articles that have surfaced since the election if you want to read about politics. I’m here to preach love. I’m here to tell you that if we all stick together, we can leave this world a better place than it was when we came here.

When I was younger, I always complained about history class. At the time, I didn’t understand its importance. Like every single other 14-year-old who thinks they know it all, I asked the question “when will I ever need to use this in the real world?” in one of my classes.

It wasn’t until my history teacher told me that it was important to learn history to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself that it made sense.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed,” King wrote.

Every single one of us has a voice. It is so hard to speak up sometimes — you may lose a friend, you may get disapproval from a family member, you may lose a job. But you are given the beautiful rights of the First Amendment.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” reads the First Amendment of the Constitution.

You have the right to speak out when you see injustice. You have the right to protest. You have the right to stand up for what you believe in. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN.

King once said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

I’m not sure what the future holds, but let’s learn from the past.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope,” King said.

Karima Neghmouche can be contacted at [email protected]