On #MLKDay: A Reflection

While Canada does not observe #MLKDay, given the common and continued struggle of our country with anti-Black racism, it remains an important moment to reflect and be honest about where we are, and how much further we have to go towards true justice

As a junior high student, I read every book and essay Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote. Gripped by the power of his “I Have a Dream” speech, even then I came to realize through reading on that reducing his message to that moment was lazy and wrong. He had so much more to say, if only I would listen.

So many white people watch the Youtube video of that speech and romanticize King, his ideas and message. Those of us who do that do him, do justice, do the Black community a great harm and disservice. His message was loving, but sharp and honest. And, we killed him for it.

On August 28, 1963, King delivered “I Have a Dream.” It didn’t make him more accepted or beloved by whites. In fact, at the time of his assassination less than five years later on April 4, 1968, King was hated MORE by whites.

He was especially hated for advocating for policy that would address the harms of racism- policy that came with a price tag of billions powerful whites would oppose violently, ultimately creating a popular view that he was an enemy of America to many whites.

If, like me, you’re white, I challenge you to sit down and read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963), which King wrote to white clergy, supposed “allies” of the Civil Rights movement. It remains sobering and relevant for us “allies” today.

As a white leader trying to do the work of becoming anti-Racist, I’m spending today with these words to reflect on what needs to change in me so that justice can prevail.

I encourage you to do the same so we can better do our part to make the dream of justice a reality.

Looking for classroom resources that go beyond “I Have a Dream” on MLK Day? Why not check out tolerance.org’s Teaching MLK With the Social Justice Standards.