On January 17, 2011, numerous events were held across the U.S. celebrating the memory and dedicated service of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., our nation's most prominent civil rights leader.
This year also marked the 25th Anniversary of the holiday that was created in his honor.
Dr. King dedicated (and ultimately gave) his life for us in his effort to secure equal opportunity, freedom and justice for all.
Our nation's oldest civil-rights organization, the NAACP, claims that it not only upholds the high ideas of Dr. King, but that its efforts as a group are geared toward insuring that the dream of Dr. King continues to thrive so that we may all enjoy the benefits of living in a free society.
But today, Dr. King might not agree with some of the practices and recent actions taken by the NAACP, and elect to suggest a change of course in its operations in order to strengthen and preserve the image of the organization.
For example, the NAACP's outpouring of support for the recent decision by the State of Mississippi to release the Scott sisters from prison (who had been serving life sentences for their roles in an armed robbery that only netted between $11 and $200 dollars) under the conditions that one sister donate a kidney to the other as opposed to them being released because they were given unjust sentences does not embody the vision Dr. King.
Justice was not served in the case of the Scott sisters, and the environment (still) exists for this same unfair treatment to occur to someone else.
Another questionable incident surfaced when the Maine chapter of the NAACP held an event at the state prison in honor of Dr. King that included a meeting with black prisoners, and the Governor of Maine, Paul LePage (R), refused to attend the event because it was not designed for all prisoners.
This represents another action by the NAACP that fails to support the vision and principles that were embodied in the efforts of Dr. King during the civil rights movement to create an environment of equality, freedom and justice.
As the oldest civil rights organization in our nation, the NAACP has a responsibility not only to fight for equal opportunity, freedom and justice - the organization also has a duty to insure that its practices exemplify the very ideas that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for.
Every human being on our planet is subject to having his or her civil rights violated at one time or another - and each one of us is entitled to having our civil rights protected and defended.
However, if we each took the time to look into ourselves and realize that our consistent refusal to work with one another across all ethnic and racial lines (including gender, religion and sexual orientation) is hindering our progress as a nation, we would see the benefit of making a more concerted effort towards establishing an environment that truly mirrors the ideas of equality, freedom and justice.
With this environment established, we would no longer need the protection or defense of our civil rights.
In short, we would no longer need organizations such as the NAACP.
Dr. King knew that America was a great country, but he also knew that America had yet to see her true greatness. In order for us to unlock the potential of this great nation, we have to first open ourselves up to the understanding that the greatness of this nation lies within each one of us.
Until we make the decision to come together and establish a foundation based on equal opportunity, freedom and justice, we will continue to see the unsettling practice of compromise and acceptance that continues to undercut the very principles that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood (and died) for.