The first thing this morning, someone wished me “Happy MLK Day.” The person who greeted me was a 30-something-year-old man on one of my social media accounts. He was not alive a half-century ago, when Dr. King was a lightning rod in America. For him, Dr. King is another American historical figure. He has no concept of what life was like in America during the days before the Civil Rights Act. For him, the day is just another holiday.
Above is a man who all his adult life, fought against racism and injustice. He endured hate, was jailed, beaten, had the FBI probing his sex life, was accused of being a traitor, scorned, mocked, and then was struck down by an assassin’s bullet ending a life that was changing society for the good. He was the hope for those who for centuries had been reviled, hated, and had their dignity stripped by racists.
I am reverent toward Dr. King’s memory, inspired by his leadership, honored to have lived during his movement, grateful for the changes he put into motion, and dedicated to standing against bigotry due to his example and words. Perhaps it is because I remember the pre-King days in America, or maybe because I lived during those times, raised by parents who had empathy for the plight of people of color.
I can’t pinpoint why happy is not on my list of words to describe today, but it is not.
One of the reasons that racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and antisemitism continue to exist, and have taken over a major political party in America, is because we are “happy” he lived, rather than taking his words and deeds to heart and living the example he set. His ideals are a threat to at least one-third of Americans in 2023, who to this day are trying to keep anyone who is not white and may not agree with them down. White racists are emboldened to a degree we have not seen in the past half-century.
Minorities and non-Christians should be taking a stand against the rising tide of bigotry rather than watching the cancer of racism grow. The renormalization of racist principles is underway. We need to stop being observers and stand against racists.
This Martin Luther King Day, those of goodwill who believe in the American promise of freedom, dignity, and equality should rededicate themselves to those ideals. We should resolve to stand against racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and antisemitism rather than looking away.
That is the message of Martin Luther King Day. That is my view.