“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As America remembers the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we at Torgenson Law would like to honor the Civil Rights icon today with a post dedicated to a man who never wavered in his moral fight for equality and the recognition of the importance of human life.
Dr. King was a titan of social change who was relentless in the face of a white public, which was either indifferent or hostile to his ideals of equality before the law. The civil rights movement did not live and die on the shoulders of just this man but his visibility and leadership was of great importance in advancing the cause.
To Dr. King civil rights was not a bubble in time that we fought for and could all celebrate a passage of a law as a triumph. He understood that 400 years of slavery, colonialism, and racism could not so easily be destroyed in 10, 20, 30 or even 100 years. Equality is a cause that must continue until every human being in this nation and on this earth that has historically or recently been marginalized can be accepted for who they are. It is those on the outskirts of society who must be recognized first as human beings and then allowed the right of equality before the law and within powerful institutions.
Racism bends and remolds itself in new ways within society. It permeates from the cultural institutions in power through many ways such as new voter ID laws, state sanctioned violence against people of color, disproportionate unemployment and incarceration rates, and the lack of representation on screen and within the halls of lawmaking.
In todays America it has become common for many to deny that racism and its ramifications still play a role in our society. We decide to try and wash our hands clean of racism because “I’m not a racist” or “I have plenty of black friends”. But this defeats the purpose of actually bringing down institutional racism itself. You ignore the issues at hand because you don’t believe you are the problem. You become a “non” instead of an “anti”. That is not enough. The Guardian news site released a great video explaining the difference that I think you should give a look.
Some of you who are reading will take offense to the fact that I have said that your indifference and inaction is reinforcing the powers of racist institutions. You may even try and quote Dr. King himself to show that he didn’t think racism would live forever or that we all are living in a post-racial wonderland, but the fight for equality still continues. Being anti racist does not mean you are acknowledging that you are in fact a racist who hates people of color but it means you acknowledge that hundreds of years of racist culture still floods through the power structure.
Dr. King understood this reality and sought to correct the collective mindset of the white majority in America that was too often asleep.
“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.” – Dr. King “Where Do We Go From Here?”
The world is not full of evils; there are those of all colors, genders, sexualities, and levels of income fighting to tear down some of the last remnants of racism. Hope still reigns over fear and hatred and if we choose to we can begin to fulfill the promise that Dr. King fought so valiantly for. Civil rights are not a cause that you can fight for just once and then say, “I did my part”. You must continue to fight for equality every step of the way and in every part of your lifestyle. And if we see the day that equality is found in America we must keep fighting for it, as there will always be those who will try and tear it down.
It is easy to become disheartened by the news. No one said it would be easy. The struggle for equality should not sadden or dishearten you because the change did not occur quick enough, on the contrary it should harden your moral compass. The civil rights movement is an act of incredible love that still continues today. It is a passion for country and humanity to know that we can be better; that we can evolve to a higher state of living that begins and ends in love.
We may be honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by having a day off of work or school but to truly honor the legacy of Dr. King means to continue to fight for the cause he bled for. One day of remembrance of this man is not enough and we know this. You do, too.
“One day the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Where Do We Go From Here?”