Why I will not pause
Today we celebrate the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday and my email inbox is jammed with references to the holiday; some are inspiring, while the shallowness of others is sad. My friends Jeff and Wendy Elkins published a great post on Dr. King, including a YouTube clip of one of his most memorable speeches. Please check out the post andthe blog, because they have a lot to say.
A recurring phrase headed into the Dr. King holiday is the suggestion for people to “pause and reflect” on Dr. King and what he means to America today. While I reflect on Dr. King and his legacy, I will not be pausing.
I will not pause because although today leaders in business, government and religion espouse the greatness of Dr. King and that we should all aspire to implement his ideals, I was alive when Dr. King criss-crossed America fighting for those ideals and I do not remember many politicians, Republican or Democrat, state or local, endorsing Dr. King. I also do not remember many religious leaders, white or black, jumping on Dr. King’s bandwagon.
Looking at many of today’s “mainstream” endorsements of Dr. Martin Luther King, I see most of them as shallow concessions to convince people to support the endorser’s agenda, often far removed from anything Dr. King would have supported.
I will not pause because all those in America still seething about Dr. Martin Luther King, seeking to stagnate if not reverse all the gains from his era have not paused, and never will. Today, words such as “white rights,” “entitlement mentality,” replace “segregation” and “Jim Crow.” The vocabulary shifts, but the hatred behind it stays the same.
I will not pause because pausing sends the wrong message. Pausing says the path to declaring his birthday a holiday was a smooth road of consensus, respect and love. Check the facts. During the last election, the Republican nominee for President came from a state that refused to acknowledge the holiday. So even in 2008, those opposed to Dr. King’s ideals when he was alive and fought making his birthday a holiday since before Ronald Reagan signed it into law in 1983 had not paused.
Pausing says the unprecedented levels of vitriol aimed at the current President of the United States and his family is acceptable. It is not. Pausing says the near continual questioning of the President’s birth, his religious beliefs and his motives, hinting at deceit (“he’s not an American citizen”) and malevolence (“he’s a socialist”) with no supporting facts is acceptable. It is not. More importantly, pausing says we will not call the hatred directed at the President the racism it is. I most certainly will. I will not be pausing.
There will be no shortage of excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches today. Most of them are well known. I leave you today with a little known speech he gave on 4 April 1967, one year to the day before his death. Reflect on the speech, but vow not to pause.