Jackie Gingrich Cushman

It seems fitting that the AJFF spans the weekend when Martin Luther King’s birthday is being celebrated.

The ideas of building bridges of understanding and using stories to share experiences are ideas that Dr. King might have considered worthwhile.

When a friend remarked that I might not want to go to the film festival because it might be bombed, I knew she was kidding, but it made me stop and think.

Keeping a sharp lookout for bad drivers and paying attention in dark places or in areas with little pedestrian traffic are all part of my daily routine.  However, I rarely consider that that I might be targeted due to religious beliefs.

Dr. King was probably aware of the physical risks that he ran while leading the civil-rights movement and, as with many soldiers, he probably believed that the possibility of his personal sacrifice was worth the risk in light of advancing the greater good.

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream…”

This dream has come a long way since Dr. King’s death, but we are not there yet. 

In trying to live the dream, our society has focused on building political correctness rather than building individual character.  The overwhelming political correctness of our society today puts everyone into a group.  Once groups are created, it is easy to focus on differences rather than to focus on similarities.  The continued categorization and labeling creates continuous friction rather than fostering solidarity and unity for Americans who are interested in how we can help each other move forward.

It makes no more sense to group together people born with white skin than it does to group together people born with black skin.  Skin color is not determined by an individual, but by genetics.  What each person can control is the person who fills that skin. 

If we really are to live the dream of Dr. King, skin color and religious background should be mere descriptors, and the focus should be on the person inside – the content of the character and how this character is reflected in everyday activities and actions.    

Make sure you feel comfortable with whom you are as a person.  After all, you did not create the skin, just the person who lives inside it.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.