Today I was blessed with the opportunity to substitute in a high school history classroom. I have been in this classroom many times, so I knew the routine. Yet every time I step into a history classroom I come out inspired. The world seems brighter to me after learning (again) about the heroes and villains of history, more full of hope than living day to day, watching the news and seeing those around me continually make things even messier than before. I know the cliche “hindsight is 20/20,” but even I know that in reality that is not true. Reality is perception, which is upsetting because how can perception ever truly be wrong? You can’t tell someone they aren’t seeing what they see, though I suppose you can tell them they are just looking at it the wrong way.
My inspiration today came from listening to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail (1963) via an actor on a Youtube clip. The actor looked nothing like MLK (unless you operate under the [mis]perception that all black people look the same), but his voice held the same confidence, the same determination to be heard and to have a lasting impact on listeners. I hold a soft place in my heart reserved for racial issues, and no, it is not personal because my husband is black. It is personal because these issues affect each and every one of us every day, regardless of whether you live in a small predominantly white town or a large metropolitan filled with every race and ethnicity. The most common cry is that we “open our eyes,” that we shine light on issues and recognize the importance of difference. Today, I beg of you to close your eyes, to become blind to the superficial distinction of skin-color, and instead open your hearts and look a little bit deeper to discover the true character of a man.
A few quotes stood out to me today while listening to MLK’s letter. I will share them with you, and hopefully they will spark something deep inside of you. Racial injustice is still thriving in the US today, sometimes discreetly under the back burner, and sometimes out in the open with more fuel being added to the flames every day. What will your impact on this issue be?
“I must admit, I am not afraid of the word ‘tension.’ … There is a type of constructive tensions which is necessary for growth.”
“Groups tend to be more immoral than the individual.”
“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” [What makes a law unjust?] “Any law that degrades the human personality is unjust.” [But what if it isn’t mean to degrade but to help individuals?] “Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application.”
“We should never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and that everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal’.”
[Shame on you] “Moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension.”
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”