Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring one of the leaders in the American civil rights movement.
It is important to recall today that, despite the victories of the civil rights movement, racism against black people (along with racism against other people of color) is not over in the United States. More than a quarter of black people live under the poverty line. Black people have nearly ten times more new cases of HIV/AIDS per 100,000 people than white people. More than 1% of American adults are currently in prison or jail, and black people make up nearly 40% of the people incarcerated, despite only making up 12% of the population. In a very real sense, the prison-industrial complex, particularly the effects of the drug war, is a new segregation.
The effects of racism are potent for young black men. Young black men are less likely to graduate from high school or college than white people, make less on average than white people with comparable education, are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be imprisoned, more likely to lack health insurance, more likely to die young, more likely to be murdered, and on and on. Misandry combined with racism is a potent combination.
Nevertheless, the work of Dr. King shows us that racism and other forms of oppression can be fought. The kyriarchy does not have to exist; it is not an immutable fixture of the universe that will last forever and ever amen. If we fight hard enough, we can make things better. To me, it’s a heartening message. Today I’m reaffirming my commitment to social justice for all people, regardless of their identities.
A few favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes:
“[He] is deprived of normal education and normal social and economic opportunities. When he seeks opportunities, he is told, in effect, to lift himself up by his own bootstraps, advice which does not take into account the fact that he is barefoot.”
“The dispossessed of this country —the poor, the white and Negro — live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of the
persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.”
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”
“I submit to you that if a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”