(Special to The Root) — A few years ago in fall 2011, I was staying at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. This is the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. is said to have finished writing his famous "I Have a Dream" speech before delivering it the next day at the Washington Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963.
With a bit of time to spare, I walked the short walk to the Martin Luther King Memorial on the Mall. I was struck by how new it looked, given that it commemorated someone who died more than 40 years ago. I learned later it had only opened in August of 2011 — which tells a story, I guess.
But overwhelmingly I was struck by the inscriptions on the memorial, and one in particular, which was spoken by Dr. King in Atlanta in 1967.
If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.
Dr. King's wisdom is a rare resource to the United States, I was sure. But this is why I find it so surprising — and shocking — that in 2012 and 2013, an unarmed boy can be shot dead in a street and this can be found .in accordance with the law. I can only conclude that the kinds of loyalty Dr. King spoke of have not transcended the sectional divisions in U.S. society.
Dr. King's words struck a chord with me. I can appreciate what the results of friction between race, tribe, class and nation are, since my region has been experiencing this for centuries. I can appreciate what the absence of peace means.
Too much, we in my region look at things sectionally, and today the divisions are entrenching based on narrow loyalties and manipulated narratives. Various interests use ideology and well-crafted stories to promote elite political interests at the expense of the ordinary individual.
We don't appreciate our fellow man and woman enough, we don't extend basic human rights far enough and we rely too much on force when we could rely on consensual politics. It is deeply worrying to me because it is so hard to extinguish the flames and develop the world perspective that is needed to live peacefully and in harmony.
Wherever I travel — and not just in the Middle East — again and again the same themes come up: a lack of respect for the ordinary citizen, a lack of basic human rights and the primacy of force or coercion over popular participation in politics.
There is little evidence of peace on earth — not in my region, and not in many others besides. The difficulties that the world faces are not neatly parceled up and hidden away in someone else's part of the world; they concern all of us. We must stop looking at them sectionally and start treating them as a common concern out of which we must all contribute to producing change if we want a more peaceable future.
Are there any similarities between the divisions within U.S. society that this case highlights and the divisions that wrack my region? Are these differences by degree or category?
It seems to me that the same insular approach that meant an ordinary man could appoint and arm himself as local sheriff, and act as judge and jury of someone he saw in the street, is a similar approach to what keeps the citizens of my region divided and having to resort to violence to obtain their basic human rights. We may define ourselves and our lives differently, but we all have our race, our tribe, our class — and those divisions are winning.
With his vision and wisdom, Dr. King foresaw the price he would have to pay for his work. "I may not get there with you," he said in Tennessee the day before he was assassinated. But he could not have foreseen that some 45 years later, a Florida teenager called Trayvon Martin would not get there, either.
How many more will fall by the wayside until we develop the world perspective equal to the task of transcending race, tribe, class and nation so that our loyalties may be to humanity as a whole?
I call on all who hold power now to change: Please do step up and change. I call for nations to stand together to face racism within and without our borders. Let's unite and ask our leaders to lead the process of change that we need. We need the likes of President Obama, who understands what racism means more any other president, whose son could have looked like Trayvon.
The law has to change and prevail, and it would do so if we all voiced our mutual concerns. Share them, and solve what we know deep down in our hearts: it's not right.
Princess Basmah Al Saud is an analyst, humanitarian and entrepreneur.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.