“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I sit to write this piece on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the US, and predictably, a lot of MLK quotes are popping up all over social media – roughly two weeks after White Supremacists stormed Capitol Hill in an attempt to overthrow the results of our recent election.
Not since the Civil War has our Country faced such peril from within. Is that hyperbole? I don’t think so. Even during the Civil War, the Confederate Army never waived their flags inside the halls of the Capitol. On January 6th, a date which will live in infamy, White supremacists were able to do just that.
In a gesture of pure hatred and contempt, these self-described patriots chanting “USA! USA!” made it clear that racism is their religion and Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and anyone else who thinks differently be damned.
THIS IS ‘MERICA, DAMN IT!
Horrified. This is what I felt. Also, incredible sadness.
I believe posting quotes is powerful. I love quotes. I start every HR Philosopher post with a quote. They inspire. They challenge. They help perspective. They can drive powerful change.
Yet, they can only do these things if the people reading them act upon them in a way that brings about justice. This takes wisdom, courage, temperance.
It is clear that watching the Capitol insurrectionists, our Country lacks a lot of these virtues – or, to be more clear – White America lacks a lot of these virtues.
Posting a quote by Dr. King, smiling, and then going on one’s merry way isn’t good enough. If it were, would White Supremacists have stormed the Capitol? Would George Floyd have been murdered? Would Dr. King still be alive today? People conveniently leave out that he was murdered for being peaceful and speaking truth to power. He was also arrested by White Supremacists, as well as put on the FBIs watch list… but White America continues to purposefully forget this.
Those searching for the perfect King quote to post on social media, but then stay silent when someone made a racist quip? That’s not good enough.
Business leaders liking all the Dr. King quotes and commenting on how inspirational he was, but then not doing the work to ensure your workplace has a meaningful and impactful DEI + Belonging program? That’s not good enough.
Watching the “I Have a Dream” speech but then not calling out your neighbor who is waiving the Confederate flag? That’s not good enough.
Staying silent when it’s NOT Martin Luther King Jr. Day?
NOT. GOOD. ENOUGH.
Don’t give me any of that bullshit that the Black Lives Matter protestors also lack those virtues because they looted and pillaged. I’m not absolving the wrongs, but here’s a Dr. King quote to ponder:
Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. … But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?
More specifically, what are we not hearing, White America?
The following statistics come from a Business Insider report on systemic racism in the US. Here’s some select stats, but the entire article is well worth the read.
- The wage gap between Blacks and Whites has gone up since 1967 – from 59% to 62%.
- Poverty rates among Blacks are around 20.7% while 8.1% for Whites.
- Upward mobility for Blacks remains elusive, meaning poverty is generational.
- Blacks are still more likely to get denied mortgages from banks, thus home ownership – the key factor for families to create and pass on generational wealth – remains lower for Black families.
- Nearly 10% of Blacks – twice as many as their White counterparts – do not have healthcare coverage, thus the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Black community especially hard – higher rates of Blacks have died due to the pandemic than other races or ethnicities.
- Despite being 12% of the population, Blacks make up 33% of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- Blacks make up 32.9% of the prison population despite being 12% of the population.
- Black men are roughly five times more likely to be imprisoned than their white counterparts — and nearly 13 times as likely in the 18-19 age group.
Not. Good. Enough.
We are very far away from the dream of little Black boys and Black girls being able to join hands with little White boys and White girls as sisters and brothers.
Maybe other White Americans watched as I did in horror the attack on the Capitol, and they are beginning to listen. I hope so. It sucks it took that to make people listen, but coming to the party late is better than not coming at all – or worse, ignoring it or pretending one doesn’t exist.
Fighting evil take courage. It takes blood, sweat, and tears. It takes more than posting quotes.
Black folks have given plenty of that over the course of the Civil Rights Movement(s). And honestly, they’ve given much more. Meanwhile, a majority of Whites have stayed silent, ignored the issues, pretend racism is a fallacy – something “libtards” made up to push some false narrative. A majority of Whites stay silent except on the third Monday in January.
Not good enough.
Until the day that marches aren’t needed, until the day that Black people stop being harassed for their higher melanin content, until the day Whites stop staying silent in the face of racism, it’s not good enough.
We’ve come a long way, but we’re not there. We have much further to march. So until that time comes, post the MLK quotes, but don’t believe anything tangible has been done to improve society. Whites need to stand up and enter the realm of the uncomfortable. I’ve said this before: There is no movement without friction. And White America KNOWS what to do.
It’s time to get the courage to do it.
But if much of White America isn’t there yet, here’s some MLK quotes (that likely won’t get much airplay) to help them start getting uncomfortable, and making REAL movement towards justice, courage, wisdom. To do anything less is not good enough.
“Why is equality so assiduously avoided? Why does white America delude itself, and how does it rationalize the evil it retains? The majority of white Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the Negro. They believe that American society is essentially hospitable to fair play and to steady growth toward a middle-class Utopia embodying racial harmony. But unfortunately this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity.”
— Where Do We Go From Here
“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
— Revolution of Values, 1967
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
— Beyond Vietnam, 1967
“The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.”
— The Three Evils of Society, 1967
“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
— Letter From a Birmingham Jail, 1963