Another Martin Luther King Day is upon us and I wonder how many people pay attention besides those frustrated at the lack of postal, bank or other services. The day usually passes with nary a word, though at least with the advent of social networking websites more of us can pretend to care. Which is not to accuse everyone posting on their Facebook walls of insincerity. You will each have to do your own soul searching on that.
It’s too bad that we don’t honor the man as heartily as we should. There should be parades, and holiday specials and more than a five minute every hourly cycle nod on (insert 24/7 news network here.) His accomplishments, and those of the larger movement he was but a part of, were monumental. As much work as there is to do unmaking racism in this country (and there is so very much, despite what many beneficiaries of white privilege would like to think), life for PoC was far worse before the civil rights movement. Many could not vote and it was still disturbingly common for white men to get away with murdering them.
If being the face (and arguably far more) of that movement is not enough to warrant the holiday being treated with greater reverence, and really it should, then think on what he gave all of us. He was more than the face of the civil rights movement. The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was, more than anyone else of his time, the face of movement… period. King, with his willingness to put himself in the line of fire, inspired others to take a stand, get out and be heard.
It is a common mistake to confuse non-violence with passivity. Dr. King put the lie to that. He was arrested, harassed, threatened and eventually murdered, precisely because he was impassive. He led by example and that example was eventually followed. So many movements owe him: the peace movement, the modern women’s movement, the LGBTQ movement, Occupy, hell even the Tea Party owes this man. Yes other movements in the past called for mass action, none did it with such effectiveness as he did. He put mass protest on the map as a valid form of community action.
For that reason we owe him more than a nod and soundbite. If I may be so bold, might I suggest all of you, regardless of your politics, take some real time out of your day. Maybe sit down with your family and really discuss what change you want to see in the world, and what you plan to do about it. I can think of no better way to honor the man whose whole life was “doing something about it.”