Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s a day for recognition of the powerful and inspirational figure that was taken far too soon and a day of very specific introspection.
There’s a scene in the 2018 film, The Hate You Give, in which students are leaving their school to support the protest against a white cop who wrongfully killed a black boy. Star is walking out with her friends, Maya and Hailey, to what looks like a party happening outside of the school. They were stoked about the shortened day. The story is told from Star’s perspective and gives a dark view of a primal, narcissistic nature that we all have inside of us. The thing that says, “sure, I’ll stand up for injustice… as long as it’s convenient and I get something out of it.”. This scene hit me hard today as I was sitting at my desk and bitching about not getting this Nationally recognized holiday off. If I did, I’d be happily working on the multitude of projects I’d like to get done around my house. There’s even a chance I wouldn’t have given any more thought to the significance of today. This is not a movie review, but I will say that this film was powerful and should be at the top of your watch lists if you’ve yet to see it.
Dr. King stood for something that is not a reality today. However much we want to believe that he’d be proud of where we’ve come, to say that would be ignorant and blatantly offensive. So much work needs to be done. It’s not enough to “not be racist”, or not see color…
Dr. King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
“We should always want to be optimistic, but at the point in which our optimism blinds us from reality, it is superficial. I think we should always be able to look forward, and Dr. King was always looking forward. But if we look forward in such a way that we don’t see the holes, the barriers, the walls, the laws, the policies, the enemies… if we look forward in a way that blinds us to the reality, then our optimism is exactly what Dr. King said. It’s superficial. He could not have fully understood what exactly was coming, but in a very prophetic way, he got a glimpse into the future, and it concerned him… I wonder if he saw 2020, with its horrific rise in hate crimes, exploding gap in income inequality, where poverty is deep but the rich are getting filthy rich… if he saw what we are right now… with a President Donald Trump, where fascism and bigotry are becoming the norm. If he saw it, what would he have done?” – The Breakdown with Shaun King
“I don’t see color” would probably work in a utopian society. But in the real world, color is significant and not something to be taken lightly. Color is a major factor in the world today. Be honest with yourself and others. Standing alone in your home as a proud non-racist doesn’t help anybody. Things need to be acknowledged, people and agencies need to be called out on issues of racial injustice, police brutality, criminal justice reform, economic injustice, education and so much more. Systemic Racism is a real thing. These are just some of the areas it affects.
“Being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” -Ibram X. Kendi from How to be an Antiracist
We need to humbly educate ourselves about our true history, the state of the US today, and the candidates running for office. We need to boldly and respectfully call out all the bull shit bigotry we encounter. Most of the time, we don’t realize how fucked up our heads are until we can take an honest assessment of our thoughts and how we came to hold them. Starting a fight with a Trump supporter won’t help, but when we hear someone saying something ignorant or racist, we need to be bold enough to point it out and discuss it. Like many issues, this has to change at a personal level before it can hold any weight at a universal level.
On non-violent opposition, Dr. King stated “This is not a method for cowards. It does resist”. I have a lot of work to do in my own life as a light-skinned Hispanic. I have been blessed with a very privileged life. I owe that all to my mom, who worked hard for it. I hope to one day be as bold as Dr. King. I have a lot of growing to do, as do most of you reading this. Let this simply be a push in the right direction, towards the dream that Dr. King had, for something as simple as the equality that eludes us.
Take the time today to look to Dr. King, his dream and his legacy. Watch his full speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 instead of just the highlights.
Come to realize that our freedom is inextricably bound to their freedom.
Resources to check out: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/nonviolence-and-racial-justice