MLK Day & What We Forget…


Today, I have become a bit unsettled by the many facebook posts of quotes, pictures, and pithy sayings, all attributed to MLK.  From those same racist hills of New Hampshire that he mentioned in the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, I sat and scanned through those images and sayings that reflect the sum total of our remembrances of this man.    Eventually, I paused my scrolling long enough for me to realize  another sad truth of this moment.

Me, and people like me, have forgotten a more needed lesson to be taken from this day.   I have forgotten that as a white, middle class man Martin Luther King Day, should say something else to me.    It seems that with my overeager desire to acknowledge him for this one day each year, I have allowed the message of this man to be softened.   I have taken hold of MLK and claimed him as one of a handful of personal heroes, and have relegated his true message into the back corners of his legacy.

In our desire to hold him up high; we miss the point.    For me, from the comfort of my white privileged world, there is a need to hear something else.  As much as I would like to claim MLK as my own, and make this day something else, this must – first and foremost – be a day for shameful remembrance.

We need to remember that a generation ago, it was people who looked a great deal like me, that bred a world were a MLK became a necessity.     It was the white, middle class man, through equal parts apathy and racism (either personal or systemic), that created an environment where our black neighbor was beat, lynched, and oppressed.  It was the white, middle class man who created a world where many of us believed it was okay to relegate another human being to inferior status.

We should pause and recognize this day, not because we own a piece of this man’s accomplishment and legacy, but rather because the ugliness was born at the hands of those like you and me.  We need to pause long enough to remember that there is a great deal of good that comes with the label American, as well as a great deal of broken.   Today is a day to remember both.    Today we remember the good that is born in the sacrifice of people like MLK, and the bad that is born in the apathy and oppression of people like us.

The truth of our remembrance should come with the recognition that this ugliness didn’t end with MLK.   The racism and the apathy did not end.  That ugliness is part of our national character, and should challenge each of us to be better, bigger, and more human today.    This challenge is needed because these things still simmer below our collective day to day lives.  Today we look at MLK ‘s legacy and picture ourselves right there, with those who marched, those who protested, and those who complained.    With full honestly, we cannot lose sight of the very real truth that we might have found ourselves on the other side of the line.

This day should prompt in us a desire to look at our daily walk and see the ugliness we partake in, and make a difference.  MLK’s call for us was a call to be better and holier.    We have yet to become those holy and those better people.    Today, I will acknowledge and remember that.   I will also try to find some small way to be both.


<Here is a very powerful post, written by Hamden Rice, for Daily Kos, that expresses a similiar sentiment, but from another side of the equation.   It is worth the read.>

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1 Comment

  1. Well said my friend…

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