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We have got to do better, for Dr. King

Black History Month seems an appropriate time to reflect on all the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did to influence great change in this country, ultimately giving his life fighting for people to have a better future on this earth, which God created for all.

But if King could see how some people he lost his life for are behaving, he would not be happy. They appear to place no value or importance on his struggles and victimization.

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We have got to do better. Frankly, I am mad as hell that some of us are regressing and have developed a careless attitude toward life, liberty and justice for all. Too many of us have forgotten the era when people were killed and beaten because of their skin color. Too many of us have forgotten that our parents and grandparents experienced harshness and mistreatment back in the days when the "white" and "colored" signs were on bathroom doors and water fountains. Too many of us are disrespecting our parents, the elderly, the young and the vulnerable. Some of our black men offensively show their drawers as their pants hang off their buttocks. Too many are dying from senseless killings — because someone looks at them wrong, someone accidentally steps on their feet, someone minding their own business just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We have got to do better. Too many black men are taking food out of their children's mouths because they are not working. Too many black women are neglecting the needs of their children because they are busy taking care of men who disrespect and abuse them. Too many of us find more satisfaction and fulfillment in luxury cars we cannot afford than in teaching our children to say hello, please and thank you; than in teaching our children to respect themselves and others; than in teaching our children to be proud of their country; than in teaching our children that hatred and violence during the Jim Crow era took the life of somebody's mother, father, sister, brother, son and daughter and that we should not turn a blind eye to what happened, but remember that part of history as a milestone for equality.

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King would be proud of those of us who are making positive differences in our lives as well as the lives of others. This country's first black president is in his second term in office. More black young people are succeeding in higher education and taking on leadership positions. African Americans are excelling in the arts, medicine and politics, and thousands of other hard working folks struggle each day to improve their futures and their children's.

Still, we have got to do better. This matters to me because I am child of parents who lived through the era when there were white and colored bathrooms; white and colored water fountains. This matters to me because I experienced racism as a teenage girl, when a white upper class male told his well-groomed and trained dog to "get that nigger," as I walked to the post office in a rural area on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This matters to me because I am a mother, sister, niece, cousin, employee and friend.

We as a race of people and as a part of this great nation have got to do better. We have to value the lives of all mankind and act accordingly with dignity and respect, just like Martin Luther King.

Shirlene Harris is a senior research quality improvement specialist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her email is ontheupandup83@yahoo.com.

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