I enjoy the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day because I enjoy the freedom that he and others with him have brought to my mind. Many of us forget to appreciate the courageous acts of those who struggled for equality, because we often assume that, had we lived then, we would have been on the “right side” too. I, on the other hand, recognize that I believe what I believe much because I was born when I was. Would I have marched along with King in the name of civil rights, or would I, like many southern whites at the time, have favored the status quo of segregation? Or going back a century prior, would I have been an Abolitionist, or one of those who would have rather just let slavery continue? Would I have considered it my problem? In both cases, I’d like think the former, but I really don’t know do I? I would have been a different person, raised by different people, and influenced by society to believe different things. Because of Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and several others, I don’t have to know. I have the benefit of growing up in a world, reshaped by their ideas. Their work not only helped to improve things for American Blacks and others, but it helped many American Whites to be freed from bigotry and racism before we were even born. Because of them, I have a better chance at knowing equality and unhindered love for my fellow man.
King said in his famous speech at the March on Washington, “…for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.” I am starting to get that. Because if I live in a country where I have rights, and others do not, then I don’t really live in a land of freedom. I am just one who benefits from a system of inequality. (And if people want to the same rights as I have, and all I can do is think of excuses as to why they shouldn’t have it or should wait for it, then that is a system of oppression.) If everyone is not free then freedom isn’t real. This must be why King says the opposite of the “quicksand of racial injustice” is “the solid rock of brotherhood.” (This all seems to echo the idea that Frederick Douglass expressed a century earlier that slavery oppressed both the slave and the slaveholder. Do you get it?)
“Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” -Martin Luther King Jr.