This year I have picked some quotes from Dr. King’s most famous speech that most people have not read in its entirety. If you would like to read the entire speech click on this link.
“So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”This
This speaks of the urgency that Dr. King felt in 1963. Too many white people have accepted the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism”. We allow People of Color to suffer believing that as long as there is some progress towards racial equality that is enough. While we stand on the sideline observing this slow progress to occur, our black students are being harmed. If you are not addressing race in your class you are willingly ingesting the drug “tranquilizing drug of gradualism”.
“The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”
White people need to stop feeling anything but a need to help our Black brothers and sisters attain equality. We feel ashamed when we learn the ghastly history of our past without using that to fuel our anti-racist actions in the present and the future. We should be conscience-stricken about the past because it was vile and we (white people) are benefiting from that abuse of Black People today. However, if that is where our actions stop it is not enough. Black People statistically don’t have the power to do the work of changing society alone.
As educators, we have the ability to co-liberate our students and ourselves. White people fail to recognize that we are suffering from racism as well. You see we (white people) have separated ourselves from other Black People who deserve equality. Together we can make a more equitable world where “we could join forces to bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth that would benefit us all”. (link) Most importantly,
“we are missing out on the benefits of deep human relationships with people of other “races” and cultures, and all that can be learned and enjoyed in such relationships.” (link) Segregating ourselves has negatively impacted our souls.
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.”
Here we are 55 years later and we are still speaking about police brutality. It is more than just the police however. “Bias by decision makers at all stages of the justice process disadvantages black people. Studies have found that they are more likely to be stopped by the police, detained pretrial, charged with more serious crimes, and sentenced more harshly than white people.” We have to look at our criminal justice system and understand that is not working for everyone equally.
Voter suppression is still alive and well. Shelby vs. Holder decimated the voting rights acts. Just look at Georgia in the last election. “African-Americans make up thirty-two percent of the state’s population, but they represent nearly seventy percent of the suspended applications.” (link) We need to call for election day to be a national holiday. Need a day to get rid of? Cancel the false worship of Columbus and now you have the opening to make election day a national holiday.
I will leave this blog with the part of Dr. King’s speech we all know. Honestly, I need some hope right about now.
“And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”