Preparing for MLK Day

Jason HeissererUncategorized

[W]e are challenged to eradicate the last
vestiges of racial injustice from our nation.
–Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”

Friends,

This week, I began think and reflecting on the life and work of Martin Luther King in preparation for Monday’s holiday. I came across some notes I made on his speech “Remaining Awake Through a Revolution.” I read this speech for the first time last year, and I believe that Dr. King’s message from 1968 is still relevant today. Here is an excerpt:

“The hour has come for everybody, for all institutions of the public
sector to the private sector to get rid of racism. And now if we are
to do it we must honestly admit certain things and get rid of certain
myths that have constantly been disseminated all over our nation.

One is the myth of time. It is the notion that only time can solve the
problem of racial injustice. And there are those who often sincerely
say to the Negro and his allies in the white community, ‘Why don’t
you slow up? Stop pushing things so fast. Only time can solve the problem.’”

This section resonated with me because students in my African American Literature class just finished reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates this week. I learned a great deal by re-reading Coates’ letter to his son and by listening to thoughts and reflections of the students in this class. Both affirm for me that the myth of time as a solution to racism really is a myth.

Whether we are reading Coates, listening to King, or responding to teenagers in our time, the challenge to “eradicate the last vestiges of racial injustice from our nation” resounds. I hope that you and your family and friends are able to honor the memory and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., this weekend in such a way that it responds to the challenge he names despite the myth of time and despite whatever fatigue you might feel in the face of racial injustice, and I hope that, as a community, we are able to stay awake and alert to one another’s experience and effort with humility and love.  

With great expectations,
Jason