History is full of dark, distressing moments. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or what your country’s history entails. Wars, famine, disease, atrocities, bigotry, and oppression are part of our collective narrative. We are flawed, imperfect beings trying to navigate an equally flawed, grossly imperfect world. It’s a challenge and, like any challenge, there are missteps and failures.
By every measure, slavery was a dark moment in that narrative. In America, it is a sad, painful stain on its history. It certainly wasn’t the first country to practice slavery, nor was it the twentieth. However, the very concept of owning another human being stands in stark contrast to the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on which the country was founded.
It took 80 years after the American Revolution to officially end slavery, but doing so required a bloody civil war that killed over 600,000 Americans. Even after it ended, the struggle for justice didn’t stop. Conflict continued in the form of racism, segregation, and white supremacy. Parts of that conflict still continue to this day.
However, where we are now is far better than where we’ve been. No matter how many dark moments our history contains, they’re often contrasted by moments of triumph. The America of 1860 probably never thought slavery would end. The idea that we would have the level of social and legal equality we have today might have been unthinkable.
What once seemed impossible is now real. Things are far from perfect, especially with respect to race relations, but they stand in stark contrast to where we once were. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We shall overcome because the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
That’s the spirit I encourage everyone to embrace today. On this day, on Juneteenth, now set to become an official federal holiday in America, let’s take a moment to appreciate just how far we’ve come. At the same time, we cannot forget how much farther we have to go. Even if that arc Dr. King mentions is long, the extent to which we bend it towards justice is our choice.
To everyone out there who still dreams of peace, justice, and harmony, I wish you a Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I say that knowing this day has more significance this year than it did last year. As bad as 2020 was on many fronts, it was definitely a flashpoint for race relations.
Relations were already not great, to say the least. It didn’t take much to spark outrage and protest on the many injustices that still linger as echoes from our less-than-equal past. The death of George Floyd was a turning point. We’re still feeling the effects of that event and there’s no telling where it will lead us.
Some are already anxious about where we’re heading. Others believe we’re not going there fast enough. Regardless of your politics or ideology on issues of race, this is a day in which we should all take a moment to remember the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. worked so hard to realize.
To some, it was an impossible dream. Some still think it’s impossible, but every dream seems that way in the beginning. In Dr. King’s time, things were considerably worse than what they are now. We’ve made progress since then. We’re still a long way from where we wish we were, but we’re making an effort.
There have been missteps along the way.
There have been failures, setbacks, and gross oversights as well.
That’s to be expected. We’re an imperfect people trying to pursue a beautiful ideal, one which Dr. King articulated masterfully. His words still echo to this day. They’re a powerful reminder of where we came from, where we need to go, and what challenges lie before us.
If you do nothing else today, at least take a moment to listen to Dr. King’s most famous speech. It was the moment he gave form and substance to his dream. It’s bold, but powerful. It’s also more relevant now than ever. The dream has transcended the man at this point, but he’s still the one who gave it life.
Just listen for yourself.
Some words resonate throughout history.
Some people become greater than their life accomplishments.
Martin Luther King Jr. is one of those men whose voice and dream will only resonate more with each passing year. We’ve still got a long way to go towards achieving that dream, but it’s still worth pursuing.
To everyone out there who values peace, justice, and equality, I wish you a happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To some, this is just a day where kids get an extra day off school. To others, it’s a reminder of just how far we’ve come in the struggle against racism, injustice, and bigotry. Even though it seems like we’re stagnating at times, we’re still world’s better than we were in the days of Dr. King.
It’s hard to for young people today to understand just how entrenched racial attitudes were 60 years ago. For generations, inequality and bigotry wasn’t an aberration. It was the norm. Fighting that was like fighting the tides for a lot of people, but unlike the tides, hearts and minds can change.
That’s something Martin Luther King Jr. believed in. He dedicated his life to confronting hate and pursuing justice for everyone, regardless of race. His legacy lives on today for minorities of all kinds, from the LGBT community to immigrants. It may seem like an uphill battle at times and even after Dr. King’s death, there are still plenty of bigoted attitudes in the world today. Some people cling to those attitudes more than most.
However, it is possible for someone to let go of their hatred. It’s not easy, but it does happen. In the spirit of this day that I’m sure brings out a lot of conflicting passions in today’s society, I’d like to share one of my favorite Ted Talks.
This one is from Christian Picciolini, a former Neo-Nazi and white supremacist who managed to leave his hateful past behind. His story is one that’s especially relevant on a day like today because it doesn’t just reveal how people end up in hate groups. It shows just how difficult it is to get out. It can be done, though, and Mr. Picciolini’s story is one worth telling.
Whatever your politics, prejudices, and attitudes, we are all still human. We all inhabit this planet together. We all want a better future for ourselves and our loved ones. Ultimately, we can achieve much more by working together than by hating one another. That’s what Dr. King fought for and his legacy is worth celebrating, now more than ever.
With today being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, though, I feel compelled to do more than just acknowledge it or the spirit behind it. In fact, I feel as though the spirit of this holiday is more critical now in 2018 than it has been in year’s past. When I look at the world today and all the ongoing conflicts unfolding before my eyes, I believe that the message and spirit of Dr. King is more relevant than ever.
What Dr. King accomplished was remarkable, especially in the face of so much heated opposition. However, it’s how he accomplished it that really sets him apart and makes him worthy of celebrating. Like I said before, he believed in non-violence and he took them very seriously.
Principle #1: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
Principle #2: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
Principle #3: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.
Principle #4: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
Principle #5: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
Principle #6: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
Take a moment, if you can, to appreciate the sheer heart and idealism espoused in these principles. Remember, Dr. King fought against some of the most extreme racism anyone can imagine. Take the most offensive, vile messages you’ve seen on social media or 4chan. Then, create a society around them and give it political power. That’s what Dr. King was up against.
What stood out with these principles and how Dr. King practiced them literally showed the power of these beliefs. Rather than pick fights with racists, he sought understanding. Rather than voice outrage, he chose to voice love. This is readily apparent in his famous “I have a dream” speech that still resonates to this day. Even in 2018, it still gives people chills for all the right reasons.
Read or listen to that speech and then contrast that with how people today are trying to fight racism, sexism, and bigotry. Think about the misguided movements from both sidesof the political spectrum that operated under very different principles. Then, look at the results or lack thereof.
This is where the power of Dr. King’s principles really shows. It also reveals just how much we’ve forgotten or negated what it means to seek equality or combat bigotry. It’s articulated in the second and the fifth principle of non-violence. He sought understanding and love over retribution and hate.
As a result, our entire understanding of justice and equality has become twisted. It’s no longer a matter of pursuing the equal treatment under the law that Martin Luther King Jr. fought and eventually died for. It’s about fighting and hating the real and perceived source of that inequality.
We see it among both feminists and men’s rights activists who seek to demonize one another rather than promote gender equality.
We see it among racial and ethnic groups who seek to elevate themselves at the direct cost of another.
These are antithetical to the message that Dr. King espoused. In his preaching and protests, he didn’t demand that one group be elevated over the other. He didn’t demand that oppressors suffer the same indignity as the oppressed to balance the scales of justice. He understood, probably better than anyone alive today, that fighting injustice with injustice still leaves us with the same amount of injustice.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We’re getting into dangerous levels of tribalism in that it’s becoming less about pursuing justice and more about being part of a shared agenda. Thanks to the internet, that’s becoming distressingly easy and the broader ideals of Dr. King’s principles seem to get lost under the weight of all the outrage.
In his tireless efforts, Martin Luther King Jr. fought for equality of treatment. He didn’t seek to elevate one group over the other, exchanging one form of oppression for another. He didn’t seek to destroy his opponents. He sought to make them friends and allies. He fought their hatred with love and their ignorance with wisdom. It wasn’t about winning a debate. It was about actually pursuing the spirit of equality.
That, more than anything, is the message we should heed in 2018. Pursuing equality doesn’t mean subduing opponents. It means standing with them on the same level, embracing what us similar and unique. We can never share the same outcomes in life, but we can share in the struggles.
In the end, pursuing equality requires a great deal of humility, as well as a genuine faith that people will embrace justice if you give them a chance. We’re giving ourselves fewer and fewer chances these days. In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and everything he stood for, we would all be wise to give ourselves those changes moving forward.