Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - a day in which we celebrate the most central influence of the 1960's Civil Rights Movement. Through the use of non-violence, Dr. King spread a message of love and equality that provided the basis for many laws which would shape American culture over the next several decades, and still remains at the forefront of many rights efforts across the country. His bravery and resilience are shining examples of the human spirit, and what can be accomplished once we put aside our differences.
Possibly the single most important piece of legislation was implemented by President John F. Kennedy as a direct result of Dr. King's efforts - the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The landmark act provided widespread improvements in preventing race-based discrimination across the country. Although the effort was far from all-inclusive, it provided a critical stepping stone which is still used as the foundation for the betterment of individual rights discussion. The following year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allowed minorities the privilege of voting and being properly represented in the democratic process for the first time. Since then, countless efforts have been championed to bring equality to a higher level. America is an objectively better and more diverse place as a result.
To make any attempt to summarize Dr. King's work in a simple blog post would be a complete injustice to a man who redefined American culture. He paid the ultimate price for his convictions on April 4, 1968, but the spirit of his message still lingers nearly anywhere you look. Diversity is everywhere, from our schools to our legislators. I've taken pause a number of times watching my daughter on the playground, and her not having any idea that at one time in the not too distant past, she wouldn't have been able to play with some of her friends just because they looked different. She, and every other child today, has an opportunity to be more worldly than the generations who came before them. The current generation of young children may very well be the first in history without an environmental predisposition towards racism of any kind.
Nearly 50 years after his death, Dr. King's birthplace of Atlanta continues the tradition of protecting equality. The Georgia State Senate introduced SB316 on January 9th, titled the "Georgia Enhanced Penalties for Hate Crimes Act", which seeks to improve upon previous legal efforts to curb criminal activity which directly relates to discriminatory factors. Although harsh penalties only act as a deterrent for certain types of crime, it is a step forward towards eliminating race-based violence. Dr. King would be proud of how far we've come in protecting people of all backgrounds, and their inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
With these thoughts, let's all take a moment today to remember a great man who helped change the world. Most of all, let's take time to hope. Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope for true and complete equality. Hope that we've evolved enough as a society to never need another man like Dr. King to tell us to treat each other with dignity and respect. It sounds like a sentiment he would agree with.
We hope that one day, the concept of hate crimes are relegated to the garbage can of history, and ATLAS won't even need to keep tabs on a type of crime that no longer exists.