Carrying on King’s Legacy
Over the past week, you have no doubt heard many people quote Martin Luther King Jr. You probably heard stories about the civil rights movement, recounts the heroism that he showed in standing up to bigotry. You probably even saw advertisements invoking his name and using his speech. It’s wonderful that it is popular, even ordinary to hear his name spoken with such fondness.
And yet, racism continues to exist in our country. As much as we would like to tell ourselves the narrative of progress– “Look how bad things were back then! Look how far we’ve come!”– the fact of the matter is that we still have a long way to go. Having spent decades thinking that racism was over, many have failed to recognize that some things are actually worse today for people of color than when I was born.
The first problem, as you will see in the comments, is the outright denial that racism still exists. I suspected that I would receive some of this pushback but not to the extent that I received it. I realize that many people fail to accept (or simply grasp) the concept of communal sin and so the idea of racism as a structure of evil is entirely foreign to them. I plan to address this in a video later this year.
There are, of course, many others who received this video with great defensiveness, responding that they felt attacked. There is an unwillingness to accept that one can contribute to the problem of racism without being a “evil person” themselves. The problem of social structures is that few people willingly or consciously promote evil, but they benefit nonetheless. Believing themselves to be “good people”–and I have no reason to object to that–the idea of racism is flatly rejected without further consideration.
What I wanted to do in this video is to push people beyond the common language of the day to actual action. To look at what they say and ask, “Do I actually oppose racism?” It takes more than quoting Dr. King each year. When racist structures exist in our world, the one who carries on King’s legacy is the one who is humble enough with themselves to recognize their own implicit biases, who resists policies and actions that give advantage to white people at the detriment to others, who put their money where their mouths are and actually support the leaders in the black community today who continue to demand change, who do not think for a second that the fight is over.
How can we quote Martin Luther King today while at the same time opposing those who continue his work? This, to me, is a problem, which is why I ask, “Would you have marched with Dr. King?” Would you have put your safety and reputation on the line for this cause? The only way to know is to ask yourself if you’re doing it with his successors today.
Podcast Trailer next week!
Be sure to check Everyday Liminality for a trailer of our new season this Tuesday. More information to come next week!
By the time you read this, I will be on my way with eight high school students up to Philadelphia where we serve at the Franciscan’s soup kitchen for a week. It will be a challenging new experience for them. I ask that you prayer for our safety as we travel into the cold, but maybe more importantly, that these students have an experience of poverty and “minority” (not necessarily in terms of race but with the “other” and outcast) that draws them deeper to the poor Christ.
Peace and good!