December 7, 2022

MLK: This quote is still true today

Today is of course a day to celebrate Martin Luther King’s contributions to dismantling institutionalized racism. That work is still ongoing today, as recent rulings refusing to hold police officers accountable in the shooting deaths of unarmed black people shows. Everyone quotes King’s “I have a Dream” speech about judging people by the content of their character. That is a laudable goal, but we are now in the 21st century and the country isn’t there yet.

The following is a quote to reflect on today that speaks to us from yesterday. It speaks to one of the reasons why we aren’t at the point yet where society is judging a person simply on their character.

Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans. White America would have liked to believe that in the past ten years a mechanism had somehow been created that needed only orderly and smooth tending for the painless accomplishment of change. Yet this is precisely what has not been achieved. [….] These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Where Do We Go From Here?: Where Are We?” (via unquotedmlk)

For evidence this is still true today, one need look no further than how any discussion of racial justice generates the same sorts of responses. The issue itself is derailed, and instead the focused is re-centered on debating whether racism is still a thing.

Martin Luther King jr. Ignorance

There are even Racial Apologetics Bingo Cards because these responses are so common.

Heard it all before.
You can’t fill a cup that is already full of BS. Source

Even though I am a person of color, I am not black, and I will never completely understand. However, I do understand not being liked, because I don’t belong to the ruling majority.

It’s not really about my merits as an individual. It’s about my willingness to do the mental work required to rid myself of the bigotry my upbringing in a racist society has instilled in me. It’s about our society doing the mental work  to rid ourselves of “sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”. If that sounds too strong to you; you aren’t paying enough attention.

Unfortunately, judging by recent events more MLK days will go by without the meaningful changes in the racist attitudes required to make King’s Dream a reality. We really need to ask ourselves why racial equality and justice are still a dream.

 

 

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