3. 9. 2020

English Version | To be continued: Let there be light

by Ana Murcho


Once upon a time there was a world without colors. Once upon a time there was a world with all colors. Once upon a time there was a genderless world. Once upon a time there was a world with all genders. Once upon a time there was a world without races. Once upon a time there was a world with all races. Once upon a time there was a world without religions. Once upon a time there was a world with all religions. Once upon a time there was a world without disabilities. Once upon a time there was a world with all disabilities. Once upon a time there was another world, not this world, a better world. Will we ever find this world?

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He is known worldwide for the phrase “I Have A Dream” which, in a way, is one of the highlights of his career. Because the speech by Martin Luther King Jr. - delivered on the steps of the iconic Lincoln Memorial, in the capital of the United States of America, on August 28, 1963, as the culmination of the famous March on Washington, which brought together more than 250 thousand people who were fighting for freedom, work, equality and, mainly, for the end of racial segregation against the black population - marks a before and after that battle. At one point, the Baptist pastor and political activist, who would be killed five years later, says: “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”57 years have passed since this day, and yet the changes that have occurred, in the US and worldwide, prove that there is much to be done with regard to this last sentence - “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

As much as we want it, however much we wish it, we know in our hearts that Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream has not yet come true.“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’" In June 2016, Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was the target of a terrorist attack perpetrated by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, an American Muslim of Afghan origin, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (and was eventually shot down by FBI agents). The attack, later officially declared "homophobic", resulted in 50 deaths and more than 53 injuries. “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” In November 2014, Tamir Rice was playing with a plastic gun on the playground near his house in Cleveland, Ohio, when police officer Timothy Loehmann got out of the car, fired three shots and killed him. The officer had received a call about an "armed black man" in the neighborhood when he spotted Rice. A witness said he heard the shots shortly after Loehmann shouted the cliché phrase "hands up". The tragedy touched Americans (especially African Americans) and led to a series of protests against police violence against the Black community. “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” In March 2019, a 28-year-old man from Grafton, New South Wales, Australia, burst through two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, while worshipers prayed the traditional Friday Prayer. In both of the places, he shot-to-kill: 51 people lost their lives and 40 were injured. The individual, who end up being identified as a white supremacist and a member of the so-called alt-right, broadcast the first massacre live on his Facebook account. The examples follow. Will Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream ever be realized?

Most of these episodes are due to something that social psychology calls unconscious bias. It is a set of subtle, and, we want to believe, accidental, stereotypes that all people maintain about different groups of people. It is a kind of “automatic look” to respond to situations and contexts for which we are culturally trained, such as brain programming. As the website of the scientific magazine Galileu explains, “human beings have the ability to think fast or slow. When we decide to buy a house, we weigh all sides to make the decision. That is, we think slowly. But, in other everyday situations, we rely on intuitive judgments that are processed quickly by the brain, without realizing it. They are like shortcuts that the mind uses because it is easier. The problem is that it also plays tricks on us. We make decisions based on associations with old memories, news, soap operas, classes, conversations with family and friends. There are thousands of stereotypes in them.” And it concluded: “There is no point in being offended and saying that you are not prejudiced. If you have a brain, you have an unconscious bias. Without you realizing it, neural and cognitive processes draw conclusions for you, and that's where disguised discrimination comes in.” Is this unconscious bias a sufficient reason for the events reported in the previous paragraph? No. Never. But it can help to understand others, minor ones, which we face in our daily lives - and of which we ourselves take part in. Just as we always need to keep Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream in mind, we need to be aware of what prevents it from becoming real. Will we ever see the other as equal instead of seeing he, or she, as an opponent? We do not know. However, believing that this is possible is part of our message of hope. This is the light at the end of the tunnel.

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