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King's 40th, how far we have come? - Johnny Jackson

Many recognized the 40th anniversary of the passing of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4.

For some, the anniversary marked the continued significance of a man who was never voted to the highest rank of government in the United States, a man who never landed on a list of this country's wealthiest, but a man who was rich in a different way and helped direct a civilization like few presidents have, or ever will.

For others, the 40th year since King's assassination marks a point of reflection. It begs the question, "How far have we come?"

At this point, we should be beyond our battles against prejudice, racial and otherwise. At this point, we should be well into fighting our war against equality, battling individual injustices and learning from those battles.

In my lifetime, I can say I have experienced of injustice on several levels. Though my experiences may pale in comparison to some people's experiences and over-shadow others, I have learned a great from them - perhaps, more than most.

I have experienced the human condition and how someone's bad day becomes a bad for all of us. Or, how the one fool-proof stereotype finally failed in the most inopportune way.

I have learned - particularly in this business of journalism - that everyone has a different temperament, colored by and affected by everything they come in contact with.

I am learning what King may have meant with the use of "judgment" and "character" in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. I believe that my race, color, gender, age, education, and upbringing have nothing to do with my character.

I believe that not even my experiences have shaped my character, so much as my response to those experiences.

In this 40th year since King's assassination, I am sure we have all come a long way in terms of mending our societal wounds. But we individuals have a long way to go in honestly treating ourselves and each other with respect and dignity.

We have come a long way in this proverbial journey, the last 40 years, only to realize where we need to be is farther than we knew when we started.

Johnny Jackson is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at jjackson@henryherald.com or at (770) 957-9161.