One of the more well known quotes of Martin Luther King, Jr. is: “I have a dream that my four little 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.” As I was looking over some of his work before Monday and thinking about this interesting time that we find ourselves in the part of the quote that echoed for me was the last phrase. For many years we’ve found it very easy to make judgements based on the easy stuff: skin color, sex, age, nationality etc. because you can see it and for good or bad there are things that often enough hold true that those generalizations were (and are) able to be made in the first place. But when we look at the world in that way we miss out on a lot both good and bad.
The past few years have definitely raised the awareness about how some people are treated because those easy-to-see attributes, and that’s a good thing, but they haven’t really talked about the importance of then moving beyond those attributes to taking the time to get to know someone’s character. That only happens when you talk with someone, when you’re willing to put aside what are very possibly incorrect assumptions or at least that you’re willing to look beyond those initial facts to find out the fuller picture.
As awesome as it is that we celebrate the visual diversity diversity of the world, there’s so much more to people than their appearance. Everyone has dreams and stories and experiences that make them who they are. And then there are all the relationships that they’re in and people they’re connected to that add even more layers to who they are. I wish there was a way for us to visually represent or communicate a person’s character, so that you could start with that knowledge in addition to the attributes we usually look at. In some ways the internet does allow you to do this because in about a minute you can know about not only their attributes but also some of the things that make them who they are.
So as we honor the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. over the next few days I encourage you to remember that just like you’re so much more than your appearance, so is everyone else, and that when we get to know people beyond their appearance, we can get to know some pretty cool people.