Dr. King and our unfinished business

Racism is alive and well. For a time, following Dr. King’s passing, racism was more in the shadows. Something people might have believed but many feared expressing as socially unacceptable.

No longer. Spend some time watching media and observe all the anger and outrage of white people as a barometer.

Let’s assume neither you nor me are racist. Let’s assume we want equality for all. Dr. King wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to us. We’re the silent majority. Neither overtly racist nor violently protesting against racism.

His letter challenged us “moderates”. This passage says it all:

“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Dr. King taught us about justice. He taught us about non-violent confrontation. He taught us about the need to be comfortable with confronting injustice over maintaining the comfort of “order”.

He did not encourage “disorder” such as destruction of property or violent acts. No, Dr. King encouraged us to do the uncomfortable. Stand up and be counted. Confront racism as we encounter it. Distance ourselves from those who don’t share our values.

Racism is metastasizing in our country right now. There are ample objective measures of this, including the volume of restrictive voting access laws passed recently.

What are we going to do about it? If not now, then when? If not us, then who?

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