MLK Day and justice


On Monday we will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his fight for racial and economic justice in the U.S., and it is amazing and wonderful that we have such a day built into the calendar of this country. However, it would be a mistake to surround Dr. King’s story with a golden glow, seeing a universally-acclaimed hero who succeeded in ridding the U.S. of its racist heritage. In remembering Dr. King, we must remember two hard truths. First, like many prophetic voices, what Dr. King had to say was widely unpopular in his time; calling out racial injustice in this country and holding out a radically different vision of what America could and should be was not what the government or leaders of this country wanted to hear. Second, as we know too well, Dr. King achieved much, but despite his work and his sacrifice, racism and its attendant injustices are alive and well in America today. So we should not be discouraged if it sometimes seems that we are working against the tide in trying to attack racism, and we should not be surprised that it is not easily abolished. Dr. King, in his preaching, drew on the very texts that we are reading in the Torah right now, the stories of Moses and the Children of Israel enslaved in Egypt. He saw how the ancient struggle for freedom from oppression must be re-enacted in every generation, and he believed, as we do, in the promise that with God’s help we can, each time, move from slavery to freedom. As we remember and work and reflect on this MLK Day, may we gather our courage to rededicate ourselves to this sacred task in our time.