Here we are, again, still, wondering how to truly honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Today I’ve been surprised to see posts on social media from people who are self-proclaimed racists, yet find something to quote from Martin Luther King’s extensive writings. I suggest that in these dire times quotes are not enough. This year, let’s commit to DO something. For some of us that might mean re-examining implicit biases, for others it might mean finding the courage to stand up to systemic racism. Perhaps we can use our scholarly skills to uncover a bit more about the cultural, social, and political context of his work, and think about what we can do to be more understanding and inclusive.
I am sure we are each inspired by favorite MLK quotations; here is mine:
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
This quote reminds me about the importance of direct actions, as well as the indirect implications of our actions. As educators and research supervisors we hope to have direct impact on students, and hopefully indirect positive impact when those students take what they’ve learned out into the world.
The quote is from King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. You can see the whole typewritten letter and listen to him reading it by logging into the The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. Educators and parents can find curricular materials and lessons that invite young people to dig more deeply.
We might find new insights by reading primary source documents or listening to his speeches. Here is a link to the transcript and recording for a 1967 speech: “A Knock at Midnight.” His comments on “midnight in our social order,” and comments on the role of science to answer questions and the need for love, surely resonate today.
As researchers, we are accustomed to digging below the surface, looking for clues we can piece together to understand the whole story. What insights did you discover in these MLK archives and what will you do to put them into practice? I look forward to seeing your comments!