Don’t be a bystander

Published 8:21 pm Saturday, January 20, 2018

Last Monday, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and his dedication to ensure that everyone lives in a nation where they are treated equally regardless of racial and cultural differences.

Even though he was martyred for his fight for equality on April 4, 1968, his dream is still alive today. Because of Dr. King’s push for civil rights and the efforts of many who were inspired by him, people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds can eat together, learn together, shop together, share ideas and enjoy each other’s company. However, there is evidence that there is still work that needs to be done in this country. Therefore, what I’m about to address has nothing to do with political ideology, but it has something to do with decency, integrity and morality in leadership, especially leadership in government.

It has been reported that President Trump recently made a statement that was both racist and xenophobic. During his talk with Democrats and Republicans on immigration, he griped about Haitians and other African nations that immigrated to the United States and referred to their lands of origin as “s—hole countries.” He then stated that America should be welcoming immigrants from countries like Norway.

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What makes the situation ironic and hypocritical is the fact that he gave a speech to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As I look at what is going on in the White House, I can say that this presidency has made it permissible for people to commit different forms of bigotry and hatred. If you don’t believe it’s true, look at the numerous videos on social media where people are displaying acts of racism and bigotry in public places such as stores and restaurants.

We know that this is not the first time that he’s made vulgar statements about a group of people or made fun of them, so we shouldn’t be surprised. However, we need to be aware that his various statements contradict the dream that Dr. King wanted for this nation. True leaders do their best to break walls and build bridges instead of building walls and destroying bridges. Walls represent division and discord, while bridges represent interaction, engagement and diplomacy.

I understand that racism and hatred has always been present in this world, and it’s something that will never go away. However, I truly believe that God did not put us here on earth to sit back and do nothing when we see tragedies in which people are targeted because of their race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation. What happened in Birmingham, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Charleston, Orlando and Charlottesville should be a wakeup call for all of who want to see more love and empathy than hatred and apathy.

Stand up for your rights and stand up for the rights of those who look different, think differently or live differently. If you witness or experience any form of bigotry, do not become a bystander. Do something.

Kenya Smith is a Suffolk native and graduate of Regent University. Email her at