Locals find MLK's ideals as important as ever

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ELKINS, W.Va. (WDTV)- Decades after the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., many find the ideals of his legacy as important as ever. This MLK Day in Elkins, 5 News spoke with a young man who knows what racism feels like and with two diversity experts about what needs to be done to get closer to "the dream."

Yazid Makhashen is a second-year criminology major from Saudi Arabia. He knows what racism feels like. For example, the time a random person he thought wanted to have a friendly conversation called him the Taliban. He walked away.

"Even if they're being racist to me I have to be cool and calm down with them because that's the only way to stop fighting," Makhashen said.

He says the automatic prejudice is scary.

"I'm scared to tell people I'm Arab because I don't know what's gonna happen to me when I say I'm Arab," he explained.

But Makhashen knows how to rise above the comments to his face.

"Let it go and be who you are," he said. "Because if I take every comment or pay attention to every comment they're making, I'm the one who's going to lose in the end of the day."

He feels safe at his school and two experts on diversity and inclusion believe all people should be able to feel safe everywhere.

"The legacy of Dr. King is really about continuing to make the world a better place for all people," said Matthew Freeman, standing beside Tiffany Jana. They're co-authors of "Overcoming Bias" and co-founders of an inclusion and diversity management consulting firm that Jana is CEO of.

They say that in order to make the world better for everyone...

"Build empathy and build relationships across some of these gaps that are so clearly evident in our society," Freeman said. "And figure out 'why do we see things so differently?'"

They say you should know the bias you have just as a human and learn about our country's diversity.

"Inform yourself," said Jana. "Find out what the real numbers are because when you look at the data it's not the America that any of us really dreamed of."

The couple says on a legislative level we've come pretty far, but in the ways people interact with each other, we've still got a long way to go.