MLK50: Today, people are judged by content of character...eventually

50 years after MLK's historic Lincoln Memorial remarks, people are usually judged by their character, but not always immediately. Photo: Associated Press File Photo

WASHINGTON, DC, August 26, 2013 - Yesterday, in Washington, DC, hundreds of thousands of people gathered on and at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was there a half a century ago, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.”

Towards the very end of Kings remarks entertainer Mahalia Jackson tells King “Tell them about the dream…” leading to Kings famous lines about how he hopes one day his children would be judged by the “content of their character” rather than by “the color of their skin.”

Fortunately, we have come quite a long way from attack dogs and water hoses on civil rights protestors, Jim Crow and desegregated buses. There is an African American president in office, and last election, Blacks voted at a percentage to their population in the United States at a higher percentage than any other group even Whites.

There are still inequities in poverty, education and other areas, though America remains the land of opportunity where those who want to succeed can, although they may have to surmount hurdles, and some may have to overcome more obstacles than others.

It is fair to say King’s dream has come true, to a certain extent.

Today, most people are judged by the content of their character…eventually.

What is meant by that?

MLK March

In general, we all still hold certain preconceived notions, biases, stereotypes and perceptions about other races based on our past interaction with members of a certain race in the past, what we have seen or learned about them in the media, read in books or believe, generally.

It is hard for many to unload these thoughts because they are ingrained in their psyche and subconsciously manipulate behavior and the way they initially react or speak to another person of a different race upon initial encounter.

Most times, misaligned or partially developed perceptions remain benign thoughts and don’t escape the lips or turn into action.  Other times not. That’s when things get tricky.

But upon engaging in small talk, at a commuter stop, at a company event or other social circumstance, as we discover additional information and facts about those we come in contact with, the presumptions break down, (or substantiated in some cases).

It is not until we start to interact by talking to, working with, attending class with or developing a deeper relationship with others that we uncover their true character – separate from what we may have presupposed based on appearance alone.

It is at these moments of personal engagement that we determine how we are more similar to another person than different. 


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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
 
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
 
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
 
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

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