Monday, January 16, 2006

Advancing Gender Equality In Remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King

"I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education, and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits"

— Dr. Martin Luther King
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“But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.”

In his day and age, Dr. Martin Luther King believed that racial equality would produce a more just society, and that a society thus improved would benefit everyone. The famous “I Have a Dream” speech desegregated our national unconscious, by universalizing the so-called “American Dream.” Here I celebrate the Dr. MLK legacy by reflecting on how his inspired vision for peaceful, progressive social change would necessarily embrace gender as the significant window on creating universal equality and global prosperity in our 2006 world.

How was Dr. King able to wrap his arms around the issues of the day so effectively as to speak to everyone without straying from his larger vision of racial equality?

We admire Dr. Martin Luther King for modeling clarity of purpose and how to communicate it. The powerful resonance of Dr. King’s words across the ages—LET FREEDOM RING—reflects more than merely discursive acumen. Rather, Dr. King’s genius lay in his ability to include, apprehend and compel everyone within earshot to revise their sense of our human destiny.

Universalizing the “American Dream,” therefore, required a logical feat simultaneously philosophical and economic. First we must imagine ourselves human (not simply color-coded or US); then we must imagine ourselves free. In the actual language of the “Dream” speech, Dr. King uses financial metaphors, such as bad checks and bank notes, to enjoin leaders and common folks alike to see the jealously guarded coffers of American opportunity as boundless, rather than bankrupt. Released from the miserly, Calvinistic hoarding of the “riches of freedom,” we might truly enjoy the “inalienable rights of men.” When the dream is realized, then, we are no longer struggling in a competitive marketplace for a limited supply of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” because these are the universal “rights” of citizens (which here we presume to mean all humans).

But years later, we must face the tragic fact that Woman is still not equal.

To his credit, Dr. King’s universalist dream mentioned the little girls who would join hands with little boys, so that we might be sisters and brothers all around. Unfortunately for us, however, he did not mention the women we would become, nor did he flush out for us how in this millennium every kind of structural inequality cramping our global prosperity would hide behind gender, once race was "gone."

Dr. King once said, “Our nettlesome task is to discover how to organize our strength into compelling power.” In the same fashion that he was able to galvanize the everyday concerns of “men,” to convince us that universal equality was our "human" project to enact together, I will follow his leading example by hoping for our continued moral evolution; by exposing the fraudulent logic of economic scarcity; and by exploiting our great strength, which is numbers.

As mentioned earlier, the language of the Millennium Goals stretches toward total inclusion, or ‘universality,’ and, interestingly to us, the practical economic logic wielded by powerful leaders recognizes that gender inequality is expensive on a massive, global scale. In closing, given the increasing numbers of women, and poor women, and poor women who are mothers with HIV and no access to education and no transportation and no work, I suggest that equality in these areas, in all areas, may be our best bet for unlocking the mystery of universal human rights and equality in this millennium.

Organizing to that effect (i.e., promoting GENDER EQUALITY; c.f. millenium goal, number three) is my way of drawing on and celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King's powerful legacy!

1 comment:

motherofstarshine said...

I appreciated your article on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It made me stop and realize that it has been almost 40 years since his death, and the progress that has been made, is really so illusive that a "few changes in the law" could wipe it all away. The dream is, the ability for every person (men and women), to have inalienable rights, and yet with a swipe of the pen, people are alienated from their rights every day. Women can have their children taken away by the state, while they are investigated...and I know for a fact that no "investigation" took place. The rights of individuals are laying on the chopping block right now, as the government has subpoenaed google for their data regarding what people are looking at on the internet. The patriot act is just another way for the government to exercise control over the individual rights, and soon the rights of entire groups will be outright abolished. In fact, they already have been, with the border issues, etc. Some may think that the recent rulings have been progressive, but I remember when the vote was taken in California, dissoving the rights of aliens to receive medical help, or schooling for their children, and so on...I am certainly not knowledgeable on all the current issues, so I hope you will keep me informed. Looking forward to you next posting. motherofstarshine