Today we celebrate the life of one of the great men the world has known in Martin Luther King, Jr.; A man considered to be a hero among African Americans as well as those supportive of the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s.
A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the life and passing of another great man in Nelson Mandela. Mandela and Dr. King shared most similar views. These sentiments are needed everywhere: Between men and women, Christian and Muslim, gay and straight, black and white and brown, and blue and red (republicans and democrats), etc.
In my opinion Dr. King is not only a hero to Civil Rights movement – he was a hero to humanity and his message is as appropriate today as ever it was. Delivered on August 28, 1963, his famous “I have a dream” speech included content that is needed today.
In perhaps the most famous segment of his speech, he proclaimed “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 essence of his message was and remains to be tolerance and acceptance: The tolerance of views different from our own and the acceptance that all humans have value; and that only with the disregard of color, religion and culture can we achieve autonomy and peace within our world.
In today’s world we call this Diversity and Inclusion. I’ve worked with organizations, hospital systems and individual clients who have claimed to want to make their workplace more diverse and more inclusive.
I think Dr. King and Nelson Mandela might laugh at the terminology of Diversity and Inclusion; because if they see what I see, much focus is spent at trying to be perceived as diverse, tolerant, accepting and inclusive and nowhere near enough effort spent at trying to attain the actual state of being tolerant, accepting and inclusive.
Executives preach diversity and then behind closed doors speak of how women are inferior. Organizational leaders speak of wanting minorities, but only wanting ”good” ones. And Congressmen claiming to be of equal rights are heard putting down women under their breath. Or having one of the more popular members at a country club actually comfortable enough to say aloud, “We finally have one we like”, after having a minority member join. Whatever the level of importance to lesser significance, there is still work to do.
Much growth has occurred but with every comment we hear from these Congressmen or Executives that are inappropriate it shows there is still work to be done.
My favorite portion of Dr. King’s speech is lesser known:
“In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
The crazy thing is that it is really not about color, sex, religion, etc. He is speaking to all of Humanity about how Humanity can achieve and aspire; he is reminding us that we have the capability to be the people we want our children to see in us. It is truly about wanting to develop the desire to truly accept another human being as being as worthy as living as we are. But before we can truly accept another – we must be able to accept ourselves.
The applicable tenet of Human Nature is:
It is inherently present in the insecure human mind that the oppression of others elevates the value of self; conversely, in the mind of a secure human, the oppression of another lowers the value of self.
Understanding this tenet truly provides us with the direction of how we approach the intolerance of others. The empowerment that’s truly needed is to empower the insecure, to let them know that the elevation to equality for others does not lower their own value.
Think about it, have you ever experienced a boss who is insecure within himself? How’d that work out? If like most times, he or she felt the need to promote self or devalue staff – right? Same with the stereotypical man who constantly complains about his wife; he’s insecure. The woman who complains about another woman? The impact of this tenet is far-reaching but the essence of its existence is fear. And whether it’s in Congress, behind the starting of a war or in our household, it is the fear and how we choose to allow its impact is what is to blame.
The conscious and unconscious fear within a person will result in the attempt to devalue others in an attempt to increase the value within.
Furthermore, anyone who is evolved and secure in themselves must, by default, have the understanding that the elevation of others can only result in the elevation of self.
So let’s commit to fulfilling Dr. King’s dream and the will of many other leaders of humanity: Let’s do good deeds, struggle for the plight of others and seek to elevate others as this will always elevate our own Humanity.