I am writing this in a mood I wasn’t expecting. I received news this morning that a beloved professor from my undergrad has passed away. When we stop and think about teachers that make a difference in our lives, this professor basically helped form how I approached discussing issues of race and gender. I’ve spoken about it before, but he so succinctly and clearly explained to me why it was important for me to speak up and I never shied away from taking a stand after that moment. A fleeting moment for him, I’m sure, but for me, it validated my experiences and concerns. I could go on and on, but on this day I want to honor both MLK Jr and this professor by imploring all of us to work towards racial justice.
It’s MLK day and a few of us may be doing a day of service and others are taking advantage of a free day. I don’t want to preach about the importance of recognizing this day, but I do want to remind everyone that whether it’s today or next month–we have to ensure we’re using our education and license to help fulfill the goal of racial justice.
At times, it seems that MLK’s dream has been condensed to a goal of being color-blind. Many applaud themselves when they claim they don’t see color, but that is such a basic assessment of MLK. Because in reality he was a radical–he pushed for racial equality; legal justice; pro-reproductive rights; he was anti-poverty; anti-war; anti-materialism. Freedom, overall, for everyone.
So what are you–what am I–doing with our education to further his goal? Whether you’re doing a day of service today or not, our goal should be to think beyond our day-to-day lives and find ways to increase access to justice and freedom for our communities.
Yes, we’re all busy and have our own struggles, but what is the point of being a part of such a powerful profession if we’re not going to use it to create progress?
Think Locally: All our communities have struggles and ways to improve. What can you do to get involved? If you’re in Chicago, consider helping to do bond hearings-an easy and simple way to use your license while helping protect the rights of protestors. Is there a need for this in your city? Or is the struggle different? How can you become active to help improve where you live?
Think Nationally. It does seems that the path to racial justice in this country is very slow, which can be frustrating and feel overwhelming, but there are ways for us to move forward. At this moment, look at Flint, Michigan: an unelected man–not accountable to the people, who are primarily Black–decided that their health didn’t matter as much as money. This is more than an emergency–it is proof of how little (if at all) the status quo cares about people of color. Right now, you can help the residents by donating water kits, etc. to help their community. But there is also a need for us to think of how this happened and how we can use the law and legal system to protect our communities, rather than letting the status quo harm us.
Think Globally. Right now, the raids that have caused such terror in our communities, go beyond our nation. Migration is obviously a global issue–we are experiencing this influx of people because of problems beyond our country. Take the time to understand the role the U.S. has had in these countries to make sense of why they are fleeing and why we have the duty to accept them.
Ultimately, those with power are banking on our ability to ignore issues that don’t directly affect us. But there is power in numbers, so we should all make it a goal to learn and understand what is happening so that we can use the skills and education we have earned to make a real difference.
Finally, if you can only do one thing today, then listen or read some of MLK’s speeches. They are as pertinent today as ever–read them and decide:
whether [you] will walk in light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.