Today my heart wants to honor the life of Martin Luther King, but in the current climate of racial relations our society, my brain begs me not to. I’m aware that I feel completely inept, unqualified and quite honestly nervous, about saying the correct thing. I worry about coming across cliche or trite on a day like today. It feels unsafe either way. Silence is clearly wrong, but a white girl speaking up with the wrong words can bring backlash. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that speaking up, when my voice is shaking, is often the most important time to speak.
So today I’m writing, when it would have been more “comfortable” to pass.
Reading Dr. King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail, reminds me that same desire for self-preservation, and “absence of tension” by the good-willed white moderate was exactly what kept them silent. It was also the most bewildering part for Dr. King as he said,
“Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. . . We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
It’s not new, this desire for self-preservation.
This temptation to silence as a means of protecting ourselves from saying the wrong thing is exactly what bewildered Dr. King the most. And it still bewilders our brothers and sisters of color today. It may look a little different today than it did then, but the concept is still the same.
If we’re ever to cultivate true unity and peace, it must begin with our timid hearts and trembling voices.
It begins with asking questions and listening well for the answers. It starts with a real desire to understand. It has to start with truly believing and embracing the fact that we belong to each other.
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
My heart longs for a realization of that kind of unity among all humanity. I long for us to see vividly how we are tied in a single garment of destiny. So today, I will shine this little light on one who lived and died fighting peacefully for that kind of unity. In my trembling I show my gratitude and pledge my voice. I refuse to be silent, even though I don’t know exactly what to say.
I will say something.
I hope you’ll join me.
to more love,
Image credit: October 1967, Birmingham, Alabama, USA — Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. sits in a jail cell at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS