Despite electing a black president – Barack Obama – not only once, but twice, racism in America persists.
With a slew of smartphone videos showing policemen reaching for their guns during confrontations with African-Americans, who end up dead, it is undeniable that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of equality remains unrealized.
Has there been progress? Yes. There’s an African-American man in the Oval Office. There are laws in place. There is Jay Z, Cornel West, Toni Morrison and Oprah, just a few of countless prominent and celebrated black Americans who are thriving economically, who are influential and adored.
There is also Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland. There is the chilling Dash-Cam video of Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by a Chicago cop, a video that was released by authorities long after the actual event.
In response, the “Black Lives Matter” movement sprung to life, controversial and criticized just as Dr. King was so many years ago.
#ReclaimMLK: My Apology To The ‘Most Dangerous Negro’ In America
Kirsten West Savali – The Root
…[I]n my burgeoning radicalism, I saw Dr. King with his “Farce” on Washington as the face of a disconnected, middle-class, religion-based ideology that would have black people turning the other cheek until our necks snapped.
Then I realized that racist white people in America didn’t love Dr. King; they hated Dr. King, hated what he stood for and hated when he got free. They loved him for his silences and hated him for his voice. They hated when he stopped preaching about peace in the absence of justice, and instead focused on the capitalist and social hierarchy that privileged white Americans and oppressed black Americans.
That’s our Dr. King.
A Dr. King who not only understood that there would be no equality if inequities were not faced and dismantled, but who also understood that those in power knew it, too—and counted on us not knowing it.
In Our Racially Divided Nation, ‘Gradual’ Change Is No Change At All
Mark Culliton – The Boston Globe
The police-related deaths of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore have made Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a world where his children would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character seem further away than ever.
Yet these events compel us to remember a lesser known but equally relevant quote from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”
Despite the trillions of dollars spent on the “war on poverty,” little has changed for many African-American youths since King delivered that speech in 1963.
Whites Killed MLK. Now We Honor Him
Oliver Thomas – USA Today
No white person understands the black experience. Not Bill Clinton. Not Bernie Sanders. Not me. Not anybody. We can’t understand the black experience any more than I can understand how it feels to be a woman.
Where does this leave us? Are whites and blacks condemned to live only parallel lives with a great chasm forever separating us? Not necessarily. White people could rise to the occasion. We could perform the first and more fundamental act of love.
We could listen.
As We Remember Dr. King, Students Show the Power of Pro-Speech Protest
Daniel R. Porterfield – Forbes
As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I find myself reflecting upon how this American giant would view today’s student-led discussions about equity and discrimination, inclusiveness and social justice on our college campuses….
Dr. King saw dialogue as a form of non-violent action that creates lasting structural change. Not talk that’s used to distract or deflect, but candid, solution-centered dialogue. As he said when visiting Cornell College in 1962, people “hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other.”
So, rather than stereotyping today’s college students as illiberal tyrants-in-training, let’s take notice when they use free speech to promote community and justice, trying to break cycles of fear and isolation that we who are older have not been able to end.