Editorial: Equality is only our goal and still not our reality
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013 15:09
Last week, people gathered in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On Aug. 28, 1963, 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. famously delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The anniversary is, of course, cause for celebration. However, 50 years later, it is also appropriate that we examine why equality is still a goal — not a reality — in our country.
King’s speech became a uniting message for minority groups seeking equal rights and treatment. His dream for freedom to ring across the U.S. was inclusive, and the rest of the 1960s, in fact, consisted of victories in the fight for women’s, immigrants’ and LGBT equality. One year after the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, protecting workers from discrimination based on race, religion and national origin. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited discrimination among U.S. citizens in voting — though the Supreme Court deemed part of the act unconstitutional in June. In 1969, gay liberation groups in Philadelphia were allowed to establish the first gay pride week.
However, equality does not only come about with legislation. True equality only exists when we exercise fair treatment personally, in our own communities. King did not only speak about equality but also held that all people — people of different races, religions and personal experience — had to work together to make the goal of equality a reality.
We must first hold ourselves accountable. This means speaking up when we witness discrimination happening, like when we hear someone say, “That’s retarded.” or “That’s so gay.” This means examining how often we use the word “girl” to describe a woman as opposed to how often we use the word “boy” to describe a man. This means taking the time to get to know individual people as more than age-sex-race-religion-sexuality cutouts.
If King were alive today, 50 years after the March on Washington, he would see that discrimination still exists in our society. The space we leave between our goal of equality and our reality is unacceptable. It remains our responsibility to ensure a society in which all people, including minorities, have the rights we deserve. Equality is a premise upon which this country was founded, and it is supposed to be one of the qualities that sets us apart and makes us great.
We have the responsibility to educate ourselves about people outside our society and culture, and we have the opportunities and the resources to do so at Loyola, whether that means taking a class about a religion foreign to us, attending a Queer-Straight Student Alliance meeting on proper terminology for sexuality and gender identity or simply looking up how the equality and legal protection laws in our state compare to those of other states. We owe it to ourselves and to our country to remember the equal and connected society King envisioned and to continue to work toward making it a reality.