Inclusion and diversity should not be limited to a special celebration or action. Those principles should be in every decision, activity and thought. We should truly strive and aspire to the mindset the great Atlantan Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed: “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. Not only as to race but also creed, gender, national origin, religion or sexual preference.”
We are not there, but we should individually and as businesses, clubs, groups, or families stretch to make that equal view of all our mindset. As we travel the journey to get there, we should be cautious not to substitute one type of hatred over another or exclude any group.
All groups have issues in their past. Historically, slavery of many people by a predominately white population is a fact. Other cultures also have their shame, such as Native Americans capturing and holding white people as slaves or property. Africans enslaved and sold other Africans. Many cultures have the stain of bad conduct in their history.
While we cannot change the past, we can still learn from it. In fact, we are morally obligated to do so. In a society with so much, we should use resources and energy to support equality for all.
In our Declaration of Independence, we aspired to such thought. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Even then, following the conveniences of the time we used a word that could be limiting—“men.” However, as we are now more enlightened, it is acknowledged to be true for all genders and creeds, national origin, religion or sexual preference.
Now consider this:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
In this preamble to the U.S. Constitution, we seek to develop a government that supports those freedoms so boldly declared in 1776. However, that document proved to be tainted by the convention of time and allowed slavery to exist. Note in the preamble, they recognized it was not perfect (“form a more perfect union”) but was better and hopefully would lead to even more advancement.
We have a long way to go. Let us not spend our time judging the past, but instead spend our time dreaming and making real a future.
One of those little children Dr. King referenced has grown up in a better time than he did, but it is still far from perfect. Bernice King says her father is asking us “to get to a place — we’re obviously not there– but to get to a place where the first thing that we utilize as a measurement is not someone’s external designation, but it really is trying to look beyond that into the substance of a person in making certain decisions, to rid ourselves of those kinds of prejudices and biases that we often bring to decisions that we make.”
Such introspection takes a lot of “psychological work,” she says, adding that her father is “really challenging us.”
Let us continue to dream and to work towards meeting that challenge.
John E. Hall Jr. of Atlanta is the chairman of the Hall Booth Smith law firm