"Martin Luther King and Arab Americans"

Yasmine Saleh
November 2, 2014

In every generation there is an individual who is the catalyst of a great and profound social change. Starting in the 1950s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was that profound individual that began the movement for racial equality in America. Dr. King's work has been prevalent throughout the generations and continues to mold the lives of minorities across America. The speech, lessons and lectures given by Dr. King have echoed throughout history and are constantly referred to during great moments of inspiration and tribulation.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has opened the door to success for millions of underprivileged minorities. He helped usher in the legislation that leveled the playing field of social and economic advancement. My grandparents for example, immigrants from Lebanon, would have never enjoyed the successes of life without such sacrifice. Especially as an Arab, my grandfather would have been victimized by the horrible racial practices that plagued America. However, a solid foundation in America was available due to the work of Dr. King and made the move to America a wise decision. He was able to advance in the work society due to people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who fought so hard for racial equality, which ultimately extended to all inequalities. With these strong foundations in place, my grandparents were able to raise a thriving family here in Southeast Michigan. A flourishing community of Arab Americans who emigrated from the Middle East was able to establish roots in America. Our family directly benefited from Dr. King's legacy of equal opportunities regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, and all other prejudices.

The extension formed the groundwork for the success of my grandparents, which has set a great establishment for me as a minority of Arab American decent. As a third generation Arab American, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message still impacts my everyday life. Dr. King's persistent battle for equality gave my father the strength and courage to pursue his American dream. He did not encounter any racial roadblocks and put himself in a position to provide for my family with every opportunity to succeed in life. This opportunity was extremely crucial for my family especially after the death of my father. Although my father is no longer with us today, the opportunity that was provided by Dr. King has formulated the basis for my mother and my two brothers. With all the tribulations my father had to go through, it made my mother a stronger person today.

My mother, as a single parent, has successfully raised my brothers and I. She did not have to worry about the prejudices faced as a single parent due to the fight Dr. King stood for. She was given the opportunity of a found education and earned a Master's degree from the University of Michigan. She did not have to worry about being discriminated against as a single Arab-American woman and was able to find work. She pursued her dream of becoming a teacher and has been working hard for the past twenty years. Her profession may be a teacher in education but she is a great teacher to my brothers and I in many ways. She always encourages us to try our best in everything we do and thrive to do the right thing. She is always putting others before herself and influences us to do the same. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity," and I believe this message is something important in my household. Dr. King and my mother's message influence my daily decisions. The two of them are great role models to me and I try and take on their role to become a great leader.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's dream lives through every person regardless of race. Whether it is at work, school or leisure his legacy is there. The dedication, persistence and fight for the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had is a huge part of America today. Without his dream, the diversity of races in America would be a lot different. His battle and courage has given opportunity to many people to follow their dreams. He has exemplified that if you want something you can make it happen if you fight for it. His speech about having a dream allows all of us to believe that our dreams one day may come true. He died believing in his dream that eventually became a reality. My life and many others would be different if it wasn't for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Arabic translation of Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. Illustration from Michael Cavna's "Amid Revolution, Arab Cartoonists Draw Attention to Their Cause."