In response to E’s post below, I think that what we can do on MLK Day is think. Something that we don’t do enough of most days.
We can think about our own biases/prejudices with regard to race.
A good starting place to take stock of what you really think is at the Implicit Association Test, an ongoing research project put together at Harvard. It is a series of tasks that can be done online at their website. First you are shown a series of faces that are either African-American, or European-American, and you are asked to push one key for one group and a different key for the other. Then you are shown a series of words. “Good” words are things like joy, laughter, peace. “Bad” words are things like misery, failure, agony. Again, you push one key for one group and another for the other. Then, I think, you go back to faces again, this time with the left-right matchings reversed. Then, they run you through two more sets. The first asks you to press one key if you see either a European-American face or a “good” word, and to press a different key if you see either an African-American face or a “bad” word. Then, finally, they cross those up and ask you to press one key if you see either an African-American face or a “good” word, and the other key if you see either a European-American face or a “bad” word. Finally, they have a bunch of questions to answer. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes.
The test measures your speed of response time as well as your correct/incorrect answers and compares your response times from one situation to the other. It then tells you how strongly you associate each group of faces with either “good” or “bad”.
Give it a whirl.