Blogpost Writer: Frans Astala
“You know and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.” – James Baldwin
These are the words James Baldwin wrote in a letter to his nephew more than half a century ago, being later published as part of his book The Fire Next Time. He was at the time, of course, referring to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. In the light of recent events and the racial tensions that have grown worse in the United States, the words have an eerie feel to them. If you just changed the amount of years passed would the quote still hold true?
Today is Martin Luther King Day, a day celebrated in honor one of the most iconic leaders of the 20th century. A Baptist minister by profession, King ultimately became one of the best known frontmen of the Civil Rights movement demanding equal rights to everyone during a time when racial segregation was still the norm.
However, the Civil Rights movement was more than only one man. How successful was it in achieving its goals? Recently the issues that gave birth to this movement have resurfaced in the public discourse, manifesting itself as a new public movement, Black Lives Matter.
In some ways you could look at the Black Lives Matter movement as a reincarnation of the Civil Rights movement. Both movements stand against the injustices of racism, both of them mobilize and unify, but also divide people. The bigger a movement grows, the more diverse it will become in thought, and the more opinions you have on what actions should be taken. Some say that today the issue has become politicised but most people agree that we should be able to talk about human rights without politics.
Even with all the ambiguity, one thing is for sure; the young generations want to see change and are ready to make it happen. The question is how to best channel all that will into something that will create impact. Everyone wants to voice their opinions but who is actually willing to sit down and listen? With the polarization we have today this is undoubtedly what the world needs.
As a youth movement that wants to create a positive impact in the world, AIESEC is always looking for ways to address current issues through different initiatives. The YouthSpeak Forum, for example, is about providing a space for young people to discuss relevant issues in an inclusive way, bringing together many stakeholders, ranging from students to businesses, and trying to find solutions to challenging problems as one.
Times seem not to be favouring working together, but in the end change can only be brought through unity. Even if it’s hard sometimes, maybe for the sake of having a constructive conversation it is good to try to see beyond what you think a person represents, and actually listen to what they have to say. We can never know what mr. King would’ve said about what’s happening today, but his words are still relevant.
“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.