Molineaux is co-editor of The Fulcrum and President/CEO of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.
More than 60 years ago, the civil rights movement was just a dream. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. continues to remind us that our dream of America is unrealized and our work is unfinished. Today is for celebration and remembrance. It is also a day of action, as we continue to defend civil rights.
What civil rights are not yet guaranteed?
- Full access to voting for all citizens.
- Fair wages and worker protection.
- Equal access to resources such as health care, financial services.
- Mutual respect and safety in the community.
He spoke passionately about the hypocrisy of our society and opened our eyes and minds to see it for what it was: a failed dream of our founders. It was not his fault that we failed to live up to the founding ideals. King accepted his turn in America’s history. And he continues to inspire us to take action and live what we can become.
King was a man of great courage, but he never gave up. He was imprisoned 29 times for acts of civil disobedience, most often on trumped up charges, but he was not deterred. It took 13 years to build a movement, which resulted in the landmark civil rights and voting rights laws.
He was truly a remarkable man. In 1964, at the age of 35, he became the youngest to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
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It’s our turn now. What are we going to commit to? What risks will we take?
As we lose the giants of the civil rights movement, like John Lewis, CT Vivian, Daisy Bates and others, we must accept the mantle of responsibility. I hope we will do so with the same deep commitment to nonviolence that we live by in the ideals of our (amended) founding documents.
Today we have similar and different obstacles for early civil rights activists. Similar and dissimilar biases. Similar and dissimilar motives.
Our similarities are the ingrained nature of white supremacy ideology, the flaw in human hierarchy that favors one group of people over another and is often driven by a desire for power. Another similarity is the unease we feel as Americans. It’s our turn to be uncomfortable with the status quo.
King specifically referred to this unease when he said, “The white moderate 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. If we are indifferent, if we stay away, justice will never be served. Inaction sustains the status quo. Yet America remains an unfinished story, and we are still evolving.
Today is different from the beginning of the civil rights era, as our challenges are exacerbated by rapidly changing technology. Social media allows misinformation to spread faster than wildfire. Friends and family have or may become radicalized, seemingly overnight. Today’s challenges are fueled by conflict entrepreneurs, who have dismissed truth as an inconvenience; their goals are to earn money and gain power or influence. They only serve themselves at the expense of our nation.
On this day of celebration, remembrance and action inspired by MLK, let’s take our turn. I extend this prayer and this invitation to you and to our nation.
We are connected, you and me. We welcome you to the beloved community. Will you allow yourself safe passage?
It is not our fault that we live in this time. But it’s our turn to take up the torch and live in a better and just America.
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