Human rights struggle goes on, worldwide
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Museum Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie have much in common.
The Birmingham museum focuses on the U.S. civil rights movement, which defeated segregation between blacks and whites. The Berlin museum stands next to the former location of the Berlin Wall. It celebrates those who found ways to escape from communist East Berlin.
Each museum acknowledges that its cause is part of an ongoing worldwide struggle for human rights. In the Berlin museum, for example, you will find an exhibit that includes Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. civil rights, as well as Mahatma Gandhi's earlier nonviolent movement for India's independence, which inspired Dr. King.
Today, Dr. King's birthday, a host of human rights issues remain unresolved. People still face discrimination based on race, sex, economic status, culture, religion and other factors. Many are still victims of war, genocide, hunger, and lack of access to basic needs such as health care.
In the United States, we constantly re-evaluate human rights and struggle to improve. This self-criticism and correction are legacies of Dr. King, but they did not start with him.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim member of Congress, raised eyebrows when he exercised his religious liberty early this month: He took his oath of office on a Quran rather than a Bible. He used a Quran once owned by an undisputed champion of the American way of life, Thomas Jefferson.
Martin Luther King's birthday, as well as Thomas Jefferson's Quran, remind us that Americans have a historic obligation to expand human rights at home and abroad.