Why We Should Still Care about MLK and other Musings
Updated: Jun 3
Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most amazing people to have lived in the last century. I was born 11 years after his assassination. As a kid in the 80's & 90's, that seemed like SO long before I was born. Growing up, I thought "I'm living in this amazing new world because of people like Martin Luther King." But then, there would be the odd conversation between my grandparents and parents about what he was "really like." I make no pretensions that Martin Luther King Jr. was any kind of messiah or saint, nor was he perfect, but he was perfect in some things if you ask me. He held America up to account for its shortcomings. That made some people very uncomfortable and continues to do so today.
In 2008, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. Regardless of anyone's political leanings, it was historic. I told my children so when he was elected. But Reverend King would have called President Obama to task when shortly after taking office, he continued the use of drone strikes to target terrorists in countries that we had not had any kind of declaration of war with, and often our allies.
In the ensuing years, Reverend King would have undoubtedly stood up with the Black Lives Matter movement. And not because "Blue Lives" don't, but because the system has continued, despite more than 50 years of hearing his "I have a Dream" speech, to be stacked squarely against black men (and women). My blog is never going to be a place that you'll find links to the research that has been done on these things, it's my musings plain & simple.
I'm a white guy who has lived in an exceedingly white state & has for nearly my entire 40 years. Why should I care? Why should You care? Thomas Jefferson, a white slave owner for his entire life, who fathered children through one of his slaves, penned the words "We hold these truths to be self evident: That all men are created equal." I admire both men. Neither were perfect. I would like to think that given another 200 years, Jefferson never would have been a slave owner. But did he really believe all men were created equal. Do you? Do I.
I'm working with my cousin, J.W. Elliot to do the narration of his book, Walls of Glass. The book delves deeply into discrimination & our own prejudices. If you don't think you have them, its a pretty safe bet that you're in denial. J.W. & I both primarily grew up in Idaho. But somewhere, we both I think caught the vision of Dr. King. In his book, the main character (definitely based on JW) is told by his art teacher "I think you're a budding humanist." That's my favorite part. He and I both as kids & into our adulthood have become budding humanists I'd like to think. I still remember my reaction to hearing my grandparents disparage Dr. King. I loved them, but somehow, I knew what they were saying just didn't ring true. In the same way that the warnings against immigrants & refugees has never rang true to me. Skin color, religion, socio-economic status. None of it is something that should have us dividing people into Us & them.
The election of President Obama was momentous & could have been a new era of understanding. But in the years since, it has only become more apparent that there is still widespread prejudice & bigotry. If you don't see it, you may be part of the problem. The election of a black president seemed to in some ways almost be permission to revert to whatever negative views you've had about whatever race, creed, gender, gender identity that you like. "Because obviously if 'they' could get a black man elected president, we must be over racism in our country. Therefore my feelings can't possibly be race, nor my actions." Those who think we're in some kind of post racial America need to open their eyes. And those of us who have had our eyes open need to do more than just sit idly by. Black Lives do matter. LGBTQ lives matter. #Metoo matters. The downtrodden and the oppressed will continue to be that until those who are not downtrodden and oppressed take a stand beside them.
A few months ago, I wrote a review on one of my very favorite episodes of Star Trek - Far Beyond the Stars (From Deep Space Nine).
It was produced in the 90's, with Star Trek's first black lead Character having a kind of "vision" of a black man in the 50's. I had someone comment that they felt that it was the most "woke" episodes of Star Trek. I'm fine with that. Not all art has to say something blatantly, but sometimes it should. I finally got around to watching the newest incarnation of Dr. Who with my wife, and "Rosa" and "Demons in the Punjab" are two of the very best written episodes of Doctor Who ever.
To the writers of Dr. Who & Star Trek, Keep it up. To artists like Joel Thompson who wrote The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, thank you. To actors like Avery Brooks and Producers like Ira Steven Behr who insisted that episodes like Far Beyond the Stars were still relevant, thank you. To Steve Shives (if you follow the link, be aware there are F-bombs dropped) who has taught me that its not enough to just sit on the sidelines, but in fact if you have any kind of audience, stand up for & with those who are marginalized, thank you. To C.D. Tavenor, who has helped me to see some of my own prejudices I didn't even know I had by writing in the longstanding tradition of Science Fiction, thank you.
But today especially - to one of the most brilliant men of the last century, to the one who taught us that when we demean one, we demean all, to the one who stood up to senators, who didn't change his tune to harmonize with the chords of power if those chords were wrong; to one who gave his last full measure in defense of Liberty and Justice for All - Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We still miss you and we still need you.
Its up to each of us - Be kind. Be loving. Hate needs to be called out & discarded. Stand up with the oppressed, the marginalized. Be heard. If your audience is 1, you have a responsibility.