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I just read a meme that inspired me to take fingers to keyboard and write this piece:
“At the end of this day, the world will either be a more or less kind, compassionate and loving place because of your presence. Your move.”
It was penned by John Pavlovitz, who I wrote about on Elephant Journal almost a year ago. The article, “Jesus Liked to Stir Things Up Too,” echoed what I have long believed about those of us who call ourselves advocates and activists, boat rockers, rabble rousers, holy rascals, movers and shakers and change makers. We know, even as we may be quaking in our boots or our voices may tremble, that we are compelled to say what needs to be said about social justice.
This week, we celebrated the birth of a man who was all of those things and dared to speak the truth, even though it cost him his life. I was watching a special last night called “MLK: The Making of a Holiday” that featured a young LeVar Burton, Stevie Wonder, and Marla Gibbs. Some of the scenes of the police assaulting peaceful protestors turned my stomach and stirred me to be an even more outspoken social justice activist.
It replayed his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” and it occurred to me as I listened that on some deep, spiritual level that maybe he knew what was coming when he uttered the words, “Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, ‘If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.'”
King goes on to say:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.
And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
King was only 39 when he succumbed to the weapon wielded by hatred. Had he lived, he would be 94 years old. He would have witnessed some of his dreams coming true and then receding with the rise of white supremacy. Would he have had the strength to continue facing adversarial forces and gather multitudes of others with him? If he had lived, would those who spew hateful rhetoric and espouse racist ideas, been able to gain a foothold in this nation?
In 2020, I wrote an article called “A Middle Class White Woman Admits She Doesn’t Have a Clue,” in which I shared the comments of friends who do indeed have a clue what it means to be a person of color who, by virtue of the amount of melanin their epidermis contains, need to be more conscious and careful of being in the presence of those who might seek to do them harm.
I have learned over the years that it is not enough to not be racist. It is important for me to recognize my generational privilege and be anti-racist, calling it out anytime I see it or hear it. It means being an avid supporter of the importance of accurate history being taught in schools. The Right Wing boogeyman of Critical Race Theory is a fallacy, meant to prevent discomfort for adults in the guise of preventing discomfort for children—white children, that is.
Darker hued children, whether they are Black, AAPI, or Indigenous, are left out of the comfort equation. If children are old enough to experience bigotry and violence, they are old enough to learn about it.
In my community in bucolic Bucks County, Pennsylvania, there are school board members who don’t want diversity, equity, and inclusion concepts taught in classrooms. That extends to students who identify as LGBTQ+. The Central Bucks School District has been making global headlines for all the wrong reasons. They passed horrifically abusive new restrictions under the district’s Policy 321 that would prohibit teachers from displaying flags or posters advocating any political or sociopolitical activities and issues in the classroom. It is aimed at the posters, banners, and flags that indicate a safe space for endangered students.
I consider myself a pacifist, a loving and embracing person, but I can’t wrap my mind around people who compartmentalize their caring and concern for only those who look, love, speak, and worship like they do. I do judge. I do hold accountable those who express malevolence toward others, who allow their fear of differences to feed the monster that rampages. I do judge those who voted for, and despite the horrendous damage he has done, continue to support “The Former Guy.”
Now, it’s up to me to decide what move to make to create more love, more cooperation, and more kindness in the world.