“The time is always right to do what is right.”
These were the words in my head last week after I finished the annual march through downtown in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was an honor and a privilege to join around 1500-3000 Daytonians in the march.
After attending a supporting event held in the Great Hall at Sinclair, about 200 members of the Sinclair community and I joined with the main march on Third Street.
We continued on to Main Street to head to the Dayton Convention Center where the rally was being held.
We walked with signs in our hands, started chants and spoke words of unity as a police escort helped make our presence known on the cold, snowy streets.
It was a sight to behold seeing thousands of people marching together for a common cause. Yet institutional racism is still a significant issue in the U.S.
The justice system is still plagued with controversy due to discrimination. People of color have been locked up in prisons for too long especially due to charges brought from an outdated “war on drugs.” Then, when they are finally released, they are stripped of their rights and treated like second class citizens.
Even now, more than 50 years after the Civil Rights Act was passed, many people still think it’s ok to make judgements and discriminate against people based on the color of their skin.
On a local level, with the closing of Good Samaritan Hospital looming by the end of the year and the Germantown Day-Mont Behavioral Health Care location closing their doors last month, it seems those in West Dayton are being forgotten when it comes to both their mental and physical health.
And while marching is a powerful demonstration of our rights, by itself it doesnothing to change these problems.
Even though we have a large number of citizens participating in these marches, when it comes time to make a change it’s only a small fraction of them that take any action.
The rest are silent when those in need cry for help.
The purpose of these marches are to honor and pay tribute to the memory and teachings of Dr. King, and inspire change.
Yet the only way change is created is from actions. Especially actions taking place from within the corrupt systems.
Motivated people have to become police officers that are unbiased and become high ranking officials that hold those in positions of power accountable for their actions.
Inspired people wanting to make a difference need to run for political office, while not getting corrupted, and keeping their beliefs close to their roots and their cause. They are the ones who can reform the prison system and the “war on drugs.”
Perhaps most important of all, we need to vote! There were at least 1500 people at the march, and possibly more who stayed home due to the weather, whose votes count.
As an example: In the 2016 election, the percentage of people eligible to vote that actually voted was 59.7 percent. That leaves out 40.3 percent that didn’t.
So doing some quick math out of the 108,317 adult population of Dayton, there are approximately 43,651 people who can vote that didn’t. That is a huge number and is one that can turn a minority into a majority.
As the midterm elections inch closer, it is a number that can shift the balance of power in Congress.
If enough people with these ideas ran for office and were voted for by all the people who practice Dr. King’s message, we would have a shot at the reforms we need to get us closer to racial equality.
If we all stand united and use our ability to expunge those in power, we can create the change we seek.
Now, unfortunately it isn’t that simple. It’s still difficult for the underprivileged to obtain an I.D. in states where it’s a requirement to vote. People are corruptible, be that through money, power or having their mind changed by people close to them. We as human beings also think differently, and none of us 100 percent agree on the same issues. And it is no small task to overthrow the status quo, as those in power will go to desperate lengths to keep themselves on the throne.
However we have to believe morality and justice will triumph over corruption. We need to believe that when push comes to shove, good people will do the right thing in the face of adversity. But the first (and maybe hardest) step is to create a battle plan and leap into action.
Marches are a great way to express ourselves and air our grievances, but unless we transfer the passion we march with into taking steps to make our city better, it becomes pointless.
In the words of Dr. King, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”