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Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Civil Rights Movement and the Disability Rights Movement

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

As this coming Monday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, we can reflect on Dr. King’s many accomplishments in advancing civil rights and creating an equitable world for minorities. When people hear the terms “civil rights” and “minorities,” most think about skin color, not disabilities. However, the largest minority group in the U.S., people with disabilities, have a lengthy history of marginalization. “Similar to the way that racial segregation in schools was touted as ‘separate but equal,’ children with disabilities were relegated to ‘special classes’ or homeschooling.” So while people with disabilities were neither enslaved nor lynched, “we mustn’t forget the shared history of dehumanization and institutionalization that both populations suffered, and acknowledge that separate is not equal and that it is often an ineffective and weak alternative.” As Dr. King fought the tide of racial injustice and oppression, “he also railed against the anti-democratic nature of poverty and lack of opportunity for minorities.” Dr. King recognized that employment was key to gaining equality, independence, and self-sufficiency, stating that, “‘If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness’”. Dr. King affirmed that marginalized populations must band together to challenge the status quo by forming a united front to work on civil rights. As we move forward in this new year, we should remember – and reaffirm – Dr. King and his efforts to advance civil rights for everyone. For more details, read the article from the Starkloff Disability Institute: Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King and Civil Rights Overlooked Goals.