King’s vision did not see special preferences for anyone

PostedMonday, January 17, 2005-10:07 pmby TheGreenvilleNews

By Reggie Ecarma

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Reggie Ecarma is an assistant professor in mass communication and political science atNorthGreenvilleCollege. He earned a bachelor’s degree from theUniversityofLouisvilleand two master’s degrees and a doctorate fromRegentUniversity. He can be reached


As we come through another occasion to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr., let us pause to consider the issue that was dear to his heart. For me, the best way to do this is to tell you a personal story.

While I was walking on the school playground, a white boy, without cause, suddenly threatened me. Before I could react, a black boy came to my side and said, “I’ll fight him for you.” This was my first day in aChicagoelementary school, but not the first time I was picked on for being different.

I am Filipino. Along with black Americans, Filipinos share ethnic social struggles. We know what it means to be classified “minority.” That is probably why the black boy came to my rescue. Thinking back, I never saw him again, but I never forgot how he came to my side.

Years later, as a college student, I helped in an inner-city mission inLouisville,Ky., called Freedom House. I saw the tears and heard the laughter of many blacks. Hope and courage were in their hearts. My respect for black Americans grew.

Since then, I have met other hard-working black Americans who just wanted a chance to succeed. Giving up was not a part of their future.

For many hard-working black Americans, giving up means continually taking government handouts. One form of a government handout is race-based special preferences or “quotas.” Many fair-minded and hard-working black Americans see government handouts and quotas as a cheapening of their God-given value as persons made in the image of God. Also, it is setting up a new segregation.

Forced segregation, handouts and quotas were wrong for Martin Luther King Jr.; it should be wrong for all of us. Let us never forget Dr. King’s dream, “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” (from “I Have a Dream” address delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Aug. 28, 1963, Washington, D.C.).

American blacks, whites and Hispanics, Native Americans, Filipinos and others should strive for equal opportunity, not special preferences from government.

Some contend that they are promoting Dr. King’s view in promoting race-based handouts. I say to them, please read and embrace what King said in his “I Have a Dream” speech, and please don’t imagine what you hope he said.

Some contend that they are law-abiding in fighting for race-based laws. Think about it: Many white Southern plantation owners also thought that they were law-abiding when they fought for state-sanctioned slavery.

A law is a just law only when it affirms the humanity of each individual and embraces the truth that we are all created equal and in God’s image.

Many proud and hard-working black Americans do not want laws that imply they are an inferior group that needs special handouts.

Others contend that race-based quotas and handouts for black Americans are payments for past white discrimination. Again, why pay back blacks with a new type of segregation that would result in dependency leading to a cycle of poverty? Color-based discrimination is still with us, but instead of punishing white Americans for the sins of their great-great-grandfathers, today’s laws should empower black Americans and other minorities to attain the dream of which Dr. King eloquently spoke.

Today, as a professor, I believe that the Puritan ethic of hard work and living contented lives must be our creed.

Bitterness is counterproductive, but forgiveness opens the door for hope. The hope is for a truly colorblind society: not one being imagined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson but one lived out by Dr. King.

So as we celebrate the different ethnicities as Americans, let us put aside government set-asides and together strive for equality under the law.

Let black Americans, white Americans, Filipino Americans, all Americans, under the God of the Bible, encourage one another to pursue equally the opportunities of today.

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