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King’s Dream

It can come true anytime we wish it to. The “Dream” of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, that is. The man, the idea and the dream we celebrate today, Idaho Human Rights Day. The dream that we will judge and be judged on the content of character not by the color of skin.

One generation of adults not teaching their children to be racists would do it. Not tolerating it, not overreaching with the condescension of “white guilt,” not harboring resentment against past injustices or the occasional current jerk. Just live and let live, work, play, and chill. How hard is that? One generation could get it right.

The difficulty is that we too often overplay our hand. In sport we generally get it right in that all players want to win and don’t care the color of the teammate who carries them to championships. Black and white friendships that endure are forged in sport that otherwise may not have happened. But then we make rules that when a coach leaves a black candidate must be considered, which feeds “white guilt,” appears condescending, and can harbor resentment. In other words, it misses wide left.

The military generally gets it right, although the color ratios are different than society at large, and the promotion system carries some affirmative action attributes. Still, it largely works, yet the military culture is not replicable in our society at large.

What is replicable in society at large is the non-stop partisan bickering of who is more racist. We fire radio entertainer Rush Limbaugh from Monday Night Football for suggesting a much heralded black quarterback is heralded in part because he is black. We run Trent Lott from his position and then want to do the same today for Nevada Senator Harry Reid. It hurts us every time we rush to color-based judgment of peoples words.

Reid’s statement was particularly non-racist, and in fact common to many marketing conversations. In our image driven society we very deliberately chose the “look” of the face of our organization. RC Willey did so with Paige Davis, just as Internet Auto’s Treena Stephens dresses, styles, and advertises with a look – and not by accident.

It may be unfair that we are influenced more or less by height, hair cut and color, dress, diction, and yes, race and skin color. Reid was simply correctly discussing image for voter acceptability. And he was right – evidenced in part by Senator Obama winning the Presidency. No apology needed, and no criticism warranted.

So this year let us celebrate the ideals of Dr. King, and not quibble over the petty stuff. Let’s talk about race and color openly and honestly when the business issues, target demographics, or other dictates take us there. And let’s leave it alone the rest of the time, and talk about the man or the woman. And just maybe this “valley shall be exalted,” and the dreamer will be proud.

About Michael Tomlin