Today, many “enlightened” minds reflect on tranquil images of Dr. King’s mission. However, we cannot neglect the reality that Dr. King’s fight against racial injustice was often met with resistance, criticism, condescension, and vicious cruelties. (For example, he was jailed 29 times because of “acts of civil disobedience and trumped-up charges”!) Plenty of people wear their rose-colored glasses when recalling the methods of Dr. King. His tactics, though met with praise annually during his commemoration, are often repudiated daily by some members of society.
Nowadays, when the claims of racial injustice start to surface, individuals are told to look at the approach of Dr. King for guidance. Ironically, when those nonviolent strategies are executed, people who implement King’s blueprint are often met with similar opposition. They are told to conduct themselves in another manner. They are often scolded and advised to “wait for a better time” to seek justice. (See VIDEO by the Daily Show on “When is the Right Time for Black People to Protest?” Warning: Contains language that may offend.) They are reprimanded for not finding the “appropriate” forum to discuss fairness. They are often admonished because their protests, while silent, civil, and nonviolent, are still considered “offensive.”
I am compelled to refer to an infamous line in Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. In it he states, ”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Racial injustice has been a stain on our moral fabric. No matter its form, be it blatant acts or acts of microaggression—racial injustice has belittled minds, brutalized bodies, and ended lives. We do Dr. King a disservice by simply praising his legacy all while ignoring the application of his principles.
You may “support” the ideals of Dr. King in his heyday, but what are you doing in the fight against racial injustice now? Are you quick to get defensive at the mere mention of race, or do you actually research and inquire further from those who were discriminated against? Do you assume that your experience is the only possible experience? Or, do you take the time to listen and value the stories and experiences of others? You might not use racial slurs, but do you call out your family members and friends that do? When viewing footage of a black person being mistreated or beaten by authority figures, do you assume that he/she must have done something to deserve it?
The fight against racial injustice, although moral and upright, has never been pretty. Yet, Dr. King took on that battle with such grace, class, and fervor. I implore you to press on in this fight with a similar upstanding character. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of love and civil disobedience should strengthen our minds, uplift our hearts, and embolden our souls. There are practical ways to fight racial injustice within our day-to-day routines, but ultimately the key is to treat others with kindness, respect, and compassion. That, my friends, is how we continue to keep the legacy of Dr. King alive.