Every January, the United States pauses to remember the life and legacy of a transformative figure in American history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, for his leadership in the movement toward equality for Black Americans.
Advocating for inclusive environments on all levels is difficult, just as it was in King’s day. This fight for equality and inclusion isn’t limited to race, but also includes gender, orientation, religion and social class. These battles are still fought daily, as wide swaths of society continue to ignore the struggles that good people face.Embed from Getty Images
Some people say “Well, I’ve got nothing against those people, and want them to succeed, but they need to do x, y, and z.” while in their daily life continue to support the opposite, whether with their vote for certain politicians or parties, or with their dollar at certain exclusionary businesses, not understanding the discrimination they are continuing to perpetuate with their dollar and vote.
To pile on even further, the idea gets peddled by uncomfortable people (usually well removed from any sort of hardship themselves) that marginalized populations are overreacting and are subsequently hurting their cause, as though shutting up will actually help bring awareness. These activists, or “social justice warriors”, are vilified and written off as crazy or psychotic, and can potentially become socially isolated within their communities.
“They should spend their time in more helpful ways,” the naysayers assert, while the macro-level structures of US society, such as education, finance, housing, and the justice system continue to discriminate and keep them down. They imply that political change is impossible, so why even try? Individual progress may be based in your individual home or family, but ignoring policies and systemic issues never actually resolves the societal roadblocks that racist policy making tosses in the individuals path.
I hope everyone who celebrates Martin Luther King Day realizes that he was told to be quiet and go away, and was very unpopular in his time, even coming under increased FBI surveillance as the years passed. He didn’t just shut up and make cookies for his neighbor… He fought for widespread social change when it was unpopular and dangerous. I ask everyone today, on the eve of our celebration of his legacy, to not be the people who history reflects on negatively as turning a cold shoulder, or not providing a real hand to those in need. Be the people who advocate and fight hand-in-hand for further equality and inclusion in America on all levels.