Here is the first-place essay in the Hardin County chapter of the NAACP poster, poem and essay contest, written by Cameron Tucker. The North Hardin High School senior read his essay Monday at the 17th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Celebration/Lottie Offett Robinson Scholarship fundraiser at Pritchard Community Center in Elizabethtown.
By CAMERON TUCKER
Monday, January 21, 2008 8:45 PM CST
First, let me start by thanking the Hardin County Branch of the NAACP for once again sponsoring the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr./ Lottie O. Robinson Annual Scholarship Unity Celebration Luncheon. It matters to all of us sitting in here today that we who are bound together in unity, continue to acknowledge the legacy that our forefathers braved their lives for so that we could have a quality of life that mattered for everyone.
In keeping with the theme, “Race Does Matter,” let me first define the word race. Race is defined as characteristics that are unique to a particular culture of people. And when we talk about “race,” there are some universal things that matter to each of us, regardless of our race. Some of those things would be having a good education, having food to eat, a place to live, having a good job as well as being a productive member of our community. All those things matter to people, regardless of what color the skin and where one comes from.
What does matter is that we learn to look beyond the color of skin and truly look at what lies within the heart of every mankind. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. emphasized the importance of judging one based on the content of character. By looking at character and virtue qualities such as loyalty, integrity, justice and honesty and fellowship, we begin to make a radical change in looking beyond the color of one’s skin. When we bypass those critical characteristics of an individual, then yes, I would say that Race Does Matter. It matters because I believe that all people have something good inside of them, and that we as a human race need to recognize that every person has something to give to enhance the quality of life for others.
I would like to mention some notable people who rose above their race to achieve dreams, not only for themselves, but to pave roads for others to follow. At a time when “race” was a defining factor in determining whether a person could vote, where a person could live, where one could go to school, or even what type of job one could hold, it was those notable people who heard the clarion call and rose to the heights of the challenge. Those individuals were people like Bessie Coleman, an aviator intrigued by flying. Ms. Coleman applied to a flying school and was denied admission because of her race and gender.
Then we look at Althea Gibson, a pioneer in a sport that was reserved only for the wealthy whites. In the 1950s, she became the No. 1-ranked female tennis player in the world. Overcoming the double obstacle of race and gender, she won the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Perseverance prevailed over race, which did matter to some people.
Race mattered to Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights activist during the Jim Crowe era. She endured racial hatred and brutal beatings while trying to secure southern blacks their rights to voting, employment and education. Then there were others like Frederick Douglass, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells and Marian Anderson. Race mattered to all of those individuals and countless more men and women of all ethnicities.
I believe that if Dr. King were here today at this luncheon, he would look about and see something great and wonderful. He would see the human race of different skin colors sitting down and having fellowship with one another. That is what is important and that is what mattered to Dr. King. Respecting and loving our brothers and sisters, despite the fact that they look different, should matter to all of us sitting in here today at Pritchard Community Center. Dr. King shared this comment during one of his great moments; he said, “The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” I challenge each of you today to let us sit down together as brothers and sisters and collectively discuss the concerns and take action about the things that matter to the entire human race, and together we can keep the dream alive.
This essay, written by Cameron Tucker, appeared in the Opinion section of The News Enterprise and was provided to One Knox courtesy of The News Enterprise. Read more stories from The News Enterprise at www.thenewsenterprise.com.