Today we nationally celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But what does it mean to "celebrate" this day?
Does it mean a day off from work, school, or events?
Does it mean store sales and other reminders that the American Way is to fill the holes in our souls with goods produced by sweatshop labor in other countries?
Does it mean platitudes and memes that effectively whitewash his radical message?
Does it mean anything at all? What is the meaning of this day? What has the meaning become?
I read two excellent articles this morning that I'd like to share with you: one from Jacobin magazine about how King's legacy has become compartmentalized and distorted, and one from Mashable that speaks to the way MLK, Jr's message has become "sanitized." Please take a look at them.
White America has found a way to make Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr its "safe Black friend" and in doing so, has done a disservice to his memory. If maintaining one's privilege by refusing to stand up, to truly STAND UP to the forces that are gunning down Black children in the streets with impunity, denying Black people their bodily sovereignty via legal technicalities, and disenfranchising Black voters based on made-up criteria is the legacy you embody when you post that King quote today..don't bother. He would have had none of that.
If your "nonviolence" actually translates to "inaction," don't post that meme.
If your idea of revolution involves tidy, calm, structured dialogues with Black people who must be careful not to express themselves and their anguish fully so that you can feel safe, please delete that post about love.
I'm not trying to make anyone "feel bad." I'm pointing out the reasons that already exist why we SHOULD feel bad. We SHOULD feel bad that we have not seen significant change in the power, privilege, health support, safety and financial disparities that exist for Black and Brown people in America. We SHOULD feel bad about thousands upon thousands of lives lost in racial violence. We SHOULD feel bad about predatory laws, legal loopholes, and old boy networks that keep true justice from being served at all levels of our society.
We should feel bad enough to want to do something.
What are three active things you do- I mean things that you get your body up and do, or pieces that you create in a physical sense, or real money that you spend- to bring about change that will benefit people of color in this country?
If you come up short, ask yourself this: what are the unjust laws in my area? How might I start disobeying these unjust laws, or working to get them changed? Whether you choose to stand up for Black Lives at protests, advocate for prison reform, work to even the imbalances in the healthcare and insurance systems, or stand up for Affirmative Action at your workplace, there is something you can do.
Dr. King did not live, and die, so that we could turn him into a myth, a martyr, or a platitude that makes us feel better about the fact that very little has changed. He lived as an example of "do something." Today, let's recommit to doing something, and start where we are.