As a white person, I feel it’s necessary to reflect upon my relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, his legacy, and who I am in my racial privilege.
When it comes down to it, fellow white sisters and brothers, this isn’t our story to reframe, not our struggle to claim, and this isn’t our day. And it is seriously easy to allow ourselves to slide the slippery-slope and make this day all about us.
There are places for us to be and work for us to do today that relate to the legacy of Dr. King. It is a day for us to learn. This is a day for us to listen to the stories of friends of color, to read about the life of Dr. King, to hear his sermons and speeches once again, to pick up books that focus on white privilege and the struggles that black Americans endure. This is a day for us to walk next to our friends of color and listen to what they are saying.
This is the time for us to recall how we fell short in the past year in our stands for racial justice.
This is the time for us to find courage that we need for the upcoming months and years to stand for justice and the well-being of our neighbors. This is a day for us to set aside to recommit ourselves to justice issues.
Yes, Dr. King stood up for a myriad of justice issues – including peace during the Vietnam War and economic justice for all. And as Dr. King said “Justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” all injustices are interconnected and hurt so many more people than who we first notice.
But this day is not for us to whitewash Dr. King – to forget what he stood for and how he was willing to put everything out there for racial justice. Today is not the day to do to Dr. King what we have done to Jesus: to make both men hyper-meek in their approach to justice. Yes, they loved peace and non-violence, but they were willing to go to the grave for their fight for justice. They were edgy, and both men would not be revered by the majority of our society if they lived in our country today.
May we continue to grow in our privilege awareness. May we stop falling asleep to our privilege like the disciples in the garden with Jesus. May we find ways to speak of the authentic Dr. King. May we listen… and listen more. May we find ways to become aware of all of our privileges – whether they relate to race, sexual orientation, religion, or other privileges. May we continue to love radically like Dr. King and Jesus… and may we embrace their courage when the time comes for us to need it.