As Americans honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, it's worth asking if they remain committed to his high ideals.
One of King's hopes has been largely realized: an end to official and overt discrimination that once held back African-Americans and other nonwhites. But his dream that everyone be judged solely on the content of their character, skills, and knowledge has yet to become a reality.
A subtle, more individual racism persists today. The distrustful eye contact, the separation of races in school settings, the unhelpful real estate agent. Such "retail racism" contributes to continuing lower wages among minorities.
Of all the presidential candidates, Democrat Bill Bradley has raised the highest flag against racism by saying the nation's task "is to vanquish racial discord from our hearts and spirit." Other candidates should follow his lead and generate ideas to encourage individual initiative on this front.
Ultimately, the battle to end racism will be won by individuals who are open-minded enough to forge friendships with neighbors, co-workers, and classmates outside their racial comfortzone.
Americans need not wait for a presidential conversation on race to begin these efforts. The impetus can begin with a simple interracial "hello."
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