He Pursued Justice As An End In Itself And As The Only True Healing
Today we commemorate the life, work, and meaning of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, too many in pop culture and in our community will celebrate a faux Dr. King, an ersatz posthumous version drained of his righteous moral power, erudite learned wisdom, and unyielding bravery, a domesticated Stuart Smalley-esque construction that does not challenge us to be more than simply superficially “nice” to one another. That is not the Dr King who existed nor to whom we owe so much. This artifice is as a blasphemy to Dr. King’s teachings and to the multitudes of lesser known and wholly unknown collaborators who worked and toiled with him over the two decades of his publicly-visible activism and in the over five decades since. Millions of black women and men, most without Dr. King’s immense oratorical and intellectual gifts, but who nonetheless took up the power and righteousness of their shared mission, and who still toil today, are insulted and demeaned by such impotent depictions.
Every American is obligated to recall, commemorate, and emulate the real Dr. King. The individual who spoke both high and low with the moral power and determination that set America on a new course towards true justice and freedom, which journey is, as yet, woefully unfinished.
It is incumbent upon each of us to search beyond the “popular and often repeated” video clips of Dr. King’s speeches. We each must seek to learn more about Dr. King than we knew before. Review his writings, witness the Dr. King who called upon us all to actively seek out, confront, and continuously challenge injustice, chasing it without respite until it is utterly defeated. Find the Dr. King who called for non-violent protest not as a means for social pacification, but as infinitely impatient and direct provocation of intense social tension, disquiet, and discomfort at the most personal levels in order to wear down the forces of injustice in our institutions and in our hearts. Find and contemplate the Dr. King who taught us that justice is its own end and the only true healing.
There are many writings to explore, but if you choose to read just one you haven’t read before, you are well-advised to read Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, which can be found here, along with a brief description of the dire circumstances in which it was composed and smuggled out for publication.