Today we honor the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His vision and courage defined the Civil Rights Movement and fundamentally shaped the fight for racial and economic justice. His vision continues to serve as a guide for all other social justice movements to this day.
And, as far as we’ve come to Dr. King’s “beloved community,” even in 2022, there are still so many obvious ways that we continue to fall short.
In 1964, Dr. King called poverty an “evil that plagues the modern world,” and these words still ring true almost 60 years later. This is especially true for Black people and other communities of color, LGBTQ folks, young people, immigrants and asylum seekers, and intersections of these identities. As we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, these inequities are only exacerbated in times of crisis.
And while this country was built on the principle that voting is a right afforded to everyone, that has never been true for all of us. It didn’t end with the passage of the 15th or the 19th amendments. There were still literacy tests and poll taxes as part of Jim Crow that continued to prevent many of us from voting. Eight years after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act we are still seeing the consequences of that. Black voters remain disproportionately disenfranchised in states across the country, particularly in the South. And even today, the Senate struggles to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act that would restore voting rights and eliminate barriers that prevent people from being able to exercise their Constitutional right to vote. It is clear that we sadly still have a long way to go.
Dr. King reminded us of the danger of the “silence of our friends,” and right now, that silence is deafening. While over 70% of Americans believe that LGBTQ people should have federal anti-discrimination federal protections, the Senate has yet to act to pass the Equality Act that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in all facets of their life.
Today we will read some of Dr. King’s most famous words, and while these quotes have a beautiful turn of phrase and an even better sentiment, our journey to accomplish them has not been nearly as beautiful and unfortunately is far from over.
To honor Dr. King’s legacy, we must do more than remember his quotes – we must connect the dots between race and poverty, from voting rights, access to housing and healthcare, to fair immigration policies, and to LGBTQ equity. We need to include more of us. Let’s be better. Let’s do better. That is what it means to stand on someone’s shoulders – to reach further and to do more. Let’s honor Dr. King’s legacy by doing more than he could have dreamed.
As we are gearing up for what we can accomplish in 2022, let this sentiment be a calling card to make this world more equitable, for all of us.