Today our nation celebrates Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. While we are all aware of his famous “I have a Dream” speech, we may not be as aware of how his actions influenced the implementation of anti-discrimination laws for both African Americans and people with disabilities.
Historically, African Americans and people with disabilities have faced many similar trials and tribulations in American society. For instance, both groups have faced – and people with disabilities still frequently face – discrimination in the workplace, the use of derogatory language towards them by others, and oppression by authority figures (i.e. the police and lawmakers) who do not believe that these groups are deserving od or capable of taking responsibility for the many social and political responsibilities that are associated with American citizenship.
This explains in detain Rev. King’s dedication to equality for African American through courage in the face of adversity in the hopes of achieving racial equality and justice for his peers. King’s work saw major progress with the passage of the . While this act made it possible for African Americans to vote freely in elections, they still saw blatant segregation in other parts of society. This segregation was enforced by the laws that were still being enforced in some parts of America at this time. The History channel created an interesting video explaining the that made racial discrimination in the workplace illegal. I find the language that has been, and in some cases is still being used in cases of very hurtful. As a Caucasian American I am assaulted and embarrassed that I can be associated with people who use such language to degrade others.
While African Americans still see some forms of less harsh harassment then they did decades ago, the harassment that people with disabilities around the . While the African American community saw progress towards their equality in the 1960s, people with disabilities did not have the luxury of being protected from discrimination under federal law until 1990. In fact, at the time that the Voting Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were signed into law, many people with disabilities were still being housed in dangerous, unsanitary, cramped, institutions that kept them from the public eye. Thanks to laws like the thousands of Americans with disabilities were able to be protected from discrimination in the workplace, while receiving accommodations and changes in infrastructure that allowed them to be able to move about cities more easily. The language that is still used against a wide variety of people with disabilities today is known as . This language can be emotionally damaging to a person’s self esteem, just like the hurtful words that were (and are rarely) used against African Americans.
As you can see, Martin Luther King jr. helped a whole generation of Americans to see the benefits of equality in society through increased political and economic participation that results in a stronger American economy and political system through more diverse representation in the federal government. I find it impressive how Rev. King’s messages from almost 50 years ago have had such a large impact on not only the protections and freedoms given to the Africans American community, but to those with disabilities as well.