Tom’s World — Doing the next right thing
By Tom Westfall
Recently we celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK Day (as it is now called) is a nationally recognized holiday which serves to focus on the life and accomplishments of Dr. King.
For some people, this day was spent marching in support of equality and justice. The “Marade” in Denver (combination of “march” and “parade”) was well attended in spite of inclement weather. For others it was a day to reflect on race relations in America. There are reasons to be optimistic regarding the issue of “race,” but there are also many miles to go before we have achieved anything approaching equality. For others it was simply a day off and for some, it was just another work day as their business, school or organization was not able to close.
Whether you believe Dick Durbin who reported that late last week the president referred to several countries, including Haiti and the continent of Africa, as “S&*$holes” or accept the president’s statement that he never made these remarks, the juxtaposition of celebration and apparent racism is jarring.
Although President Trump has stated that he is “the least racist person ever,” over the course of his professional career, he has made statements regarding the matter of race that if they are not outright “racist” are at the very least “ethnocentric.” In my opinion, “racism” is rooted in hate and bigotry, while “ethnocentrism” comes from a place of ignorance and a lack of understanding. I don’t believe that our president “hates” minorities, but it does seem to me that he lacks a fundamental understanding relative to the reality of many people in the world, especially those of color. Neither racism nor ethnocentrism is acceptable and it is time to challenge a status quo that allows either to go unchecked.
It is easy for those of the Democratic persuasion to take on the issue, but the problem with Democrats criticizing the president and the current racial status quo is that it is always viewed as “partisan.” Having Dick Durbin report out on the president’s “salty” language wasn’t a ploy to improve race relations in America — it was a calculated political move geared at undermining the president’s agenda. Sadly for the DACA folk facing deportation should a compromise fail to be reached, Durbin’s words serve the function of entrenching both sides rather than bridging the gap where a solution surely must be.
What is needed is for leaders of the Republican Party to stand up and say “enough is enough.” I’m not so naïve that I fail to grasp the political realities of speaking out, but there are more important things than being re-elected. Although it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to remain a Republican, I still believe that the party can be saved, but that will only occur if Republican men and women of conscience speak out and acknowledge that there is no place in America for any type of racism or ethnocentrism.
What is needed is for each of us as Americans to take a stand for equality and justice. From the street corners to the pulpit, from the town councils to the halls of congress, the message must be one of acceptance and understanding for all of God’s children regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
Dr. King gave a speech at Stanford University in 1967. His words echo through the ages and bear repeating: “ It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words of the bad people and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, ‘Wait on time.’ Somewhere we must come to see that social progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time. We must realize that the time is always right to do right.”
When faced with life’s challenges, perhaps the best advice that anyone can ever receive is this: “Just do the next right thing.” In this case, the next right thing is standing up against the cacophonous voices of racial discord, and standing with the legacy of Dr. King and others in the ongoing battle for equality and justice.
Westfall can be reached at email@example.com.