MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Guest editorial by National Civil Rights Museum President Terri Freeman:
On April 4, 2017 the National Civil Rights Museum launched MLK50: Where Do We Go From Here? It's a 12 month focus on the legacy of Dr. King and our responsibility to fulfill that legacy.
As much as I hope this moment will serve to catalyze change in our communities, neighborhoods, cities, and states, I also hope it will allow us to open the door on potentially improving our ability to see and listen to others.
Clearly, we are a nation divided.
There are some that seek to capitalize on those divisions, pitting neighbor against neighbor. But the accomplishments of Dr. King and the thousands of other citizens involved in the civil rights movement of the 20th century required an ability to observe, listen, and act. It required a commitment to peaceful action that led to tangible outcomes.
Fifty years later we must ask: Do we have the resolve to be observant and acknowledge what we see? Are we willing to use active listening with those who have a different perspective from ourselves? Are we willing to make the individual sacrifice for the greater good? Have we become so self-obsessed and concerned about our own personal gain that we are willing to deny others access to opportunity?
In just over a decade, the effort of Dr. King and thousands of other African Americans, allies, and accomplices affected historic change. Yet 50 years later, we still find ourselves living in communities where economic opportunity is fleeting for many people of color. Many businesses owned and operated by people of color struggle to gain traction in both the mainstream and often within their own communities.
Too few Fortune 500 companies have C-Suites and boards that reflect the communities they serve. While the establishment of corporate departments of diversity and inclusion are a good first step, we must go beyond the window dressing to the actualization of personnel decisions that hire people of color and minority-owned business firms as partners in delivering a quality product and service to our communities.
If the next civil rights frontier is economic equity, the doors of opportunity must be opened by those on the inside, while those on the outside apply pressure.
So after our year of reflection on the accomplishments of a man who believed that all men and women were endowed with certain unalienable rights, inclusive of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, what will we have to show for it? What will we be willing to do to secure those basic rights, to our brothers and sisters, over the next decade? What will be our significant accomplishments to ensure that every person has the benefit of the American Dream? Are we willing to go beyond talking about racial reconciliation and actually begin to reconcile? Will those of us who have the ability to hire and let contracts, broaden the pool from which we select and actually hire those who are different from us?
We know what Dr. King's legacy is, the question for us to answer is: What will be ours?
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