Nearly 50 years after the historic Civil Rights Movement that transformed a nation— a nation, that at the time, was a hotbed for widespread racism and bigotry — the first African American President was elected into his second term.
On this same day, the nation, as well as the world also celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an individual who helped set the stage for Barack Obama to one day become President of the United States of America.
And on inauguration day, President Obama took his oath using a Bible that belonged to Dr. King. This, however, has brought about much controversy, particularly from figures like Dr. Cornel West, who believes the act was an affront to Dr. King’s legacy due to the President’s support for policies that undermine the civil liberties of Americans.
However, in his tenure as President and public serviceman, Obama has recognized the significance of his being elected as the first African American President of the United States. More importantly, he recognizes the work of Dr. King, the history of civil rights movement, and how he has benefited from the work of Dr. King and many other civil rights activists. This is exactly the reason why Obama should further, rather than threaten, our civil rights as Americans.
As the United States continues to honor the legacy and life of Dr. King beyond MLK Day, we cannot forget the struggle it took to elect an African American President and how this relates to our civil rights struggles, regardless of our race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. We must continue to recognize everyday, not just January 21st, the remarkable legacy of a great man; a legacy of activism, social justice, service, equality, and civil rights, and to put Dr. King’s legacy into action.
CAIR, a civil rights organization that defends the civil liberties of American Muslims, strives to embody and emulate the values, beliefs, and actions of Dr. King through its work within the American Muslim community. While establishing a powerful American Muslim community, CAIR seeks to build bridges with like-minded civil and human rights groups as well as interfaith and interethnic organizations.
This is how Dr. King’s legacy lives on, through the groups and individuals who take his words and put them into action in our every day lives.
Dr. King’s famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial, characterized the ideal for people to be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, and that as a nation we will and must come together as one and appreciate and embrace each other through both our similarities as well as our differences.
In a world that still battles with issues of intolerance and bigotry, Dr. King would want his work to carry on.
Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Now, as we continue to celebrate the work of Dr. King, it must be understood that we cannot let his courageous activism and quest for justice go unnoticed and unfinished.
And in that recognition of the great issues we now face, we cannot be thwarted or dismayed by those greater challenges. We now have to work harder to alleviate the injustices and intolerance through our work, and learn how to be of service to others and embrace brotherhood.
That is what the legacy of Dr. King, as well as many like him, is about. As two national celebrations officially concluded Monday—one for the inauguration of the first African American President into his second term, and the other for a heroic civil rights visionary that brought many issues to the forefront of this country—the battle for emboldening and protecting our civil rights continues.
Dr. King transcended decades of struggle, and through his life and in the aftermath of his death embodied the ideal of American and international civil and human rights through a very simple philosophy: freedom, justice, and equality for all.
As Dr. King once famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”