Every January, I think purposefully about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work for “freedom and justice for all”. And, every year I am amazed at how little progress we have made toward our collective dream. It seems so easy, yet we are still divided along what is mistakenly called racial lines.

If we took a poll on “why?” this continues to be a problem, I predict the most common answer would be, “It’s their fault.” Of course, that is the easy answer. It is not my fault, therefore it must be someone else’s fault, particularly, their fault. I am sure Dr. King and all the other victims of our collective biases would shake their heads, wondering how it could still be so.

Perhaps, the problem lies in our inability to have meaningful conversations with people who act or think or look different than us. Or, possibly we need to have a scapegoat to blame because our lives have not turned out to be as perfect as we would wish. Perhaps we are just flawed beings who don’t know how to share our toys.

Whatever the reason, we are all equipped with skills to help us become better people. We are given brains to learn new and complex things. We have compassion so we can see things from another’s perspective. And, most of us have a conscience that gives us the chance to look at our behavior and feel remorse for what we alone or collectively have perpetuated.

We even have laws against discrimination of all kinds which have worked, but not as well as we might have hoped.

Why aren’t our human skills making a difference? We all have the ability to walk in another’s shoes in our imaginations, so how is it that we still are divided by something that amounts to less than 1% of our genetic makeup?

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If you are interested in getting the answers to some of these questions, there is a wealth of information out there. I just finished reading two books you might be interested in.

The first, “Just Mercy” by lawyer Brian Stevenson, is his story of representing Walter McMillian in the late 1980s, when he was on death row for killing a young white woman in Alabama. (Hint: He wasn’t guilty.) When I finished it, I turned it over and read it again. It is an astoundingly true story of injustice.

The second, “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander traces the War On Drugs that began in 1971. It is jaw dropping. You will be astounded by what has gone on right under our noses. She is an excellent writer and has done her research.

I wish a Just and Happy New Year to all!

Dianne Roth is a mother, grandmother, teacher, and freelance writer. She can be reached at: baglady@cmug.com

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