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Don't Just Quote Him. Live What He Preached

We Must Celebrate Dr. King By Continuing His Struggle

Monday, as you are surely aware was Martin Luther King Jr. day. A day where, ostensibly, we celebrate the all-too-brief life of this great American, and the profound changes the non-violent movement he exemplified wrought upon our nation, bringing us out of the benighted era of Jim Crow and legalized segregation, and into an enlightened, post-racial America. An America, pundits and politicians alike crow judges people “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

While in some ways this celebration and elevation of civil rights through the veneration of heroes like Dr. King is a wonderful sign of progress, we can also see how holidays like this can serve to insulate the status quo from confronting both the complexities of our history and our continued failures to this day. Explicit, codified racism may no longer be legal, but the shadows of injustice these systems cast stretch into the present. Since Dr. King’s iconic “I have a Dream” speech nearly 60 years ago, the racial wealth gap remains unchanged, de facto segregation in housing has increased, and the “justice system” continues to brutalize black and brown bodies. Kings words that, “we have come a long way, but we have a long way yet to go,” are tragically as true as ever over a half century later.

Congratulating ourselves on completing the unfinished task of throwing off the fetters of racial animus, when we so clearly remain enthralled in its hateful grip, would be bad enough, but we compound our sins when we reduce Dr. King’s life struggle to one of only seeking racial equality. King recognized that the seeking justice requires not just political activity, but economic leverage as well. The non-violent campaigns of the civil rights movement not only exerted political pressure through moral clarity, but targeted businesses through economic action. Indeed, we must always remember, that MLK Jr. was assassinated as he was organizing the working poor across racial lines, building a larger class solidarity.

Looking at the social and political landscape today, Dr. King, were he alive, would likely be disappointed, but not surprised. As he observed in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, the great stumbling block on the road to freedom is the so-called “white moderate,” a group that continues through today, to stymie our progress while professing sympathy for our agenda. The tepid agreement of Democratic leadership of the demands of the people, remains as ineffectual and unconvincing as it was in Dr. King's day. We have not remained entirely stagnant, however, for while the power structures remain obstinate to systemic change, the American people themselves are more than ready!

The task ahead of us now, is to be inspired by the unflagging faith and optimism of MLK Jr., and to continue the non-violent struggle for justice. We must unite the people and awaken them to their power politically and economically, until one day America lives up to its promise, and is worthy of leaders like King! So, join us each Tuesday in united solidarity as we channel the spirit of King and all those who fight for a humane government that represents all of us!

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