Dear Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr
Dear Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.:
I’m writing you today, on your day, January 15th. The day you and the earth first collided. American textbooks use you to put a positive spin on our not-so- distant past. The past you lived resulted in the present we tolerate and the future you predicted. See, instead of being remembered as the man you identified as in your Letter from Birmingham Jail—an extremist for love and justice—the history books neatly filed you away under a sanitized label: The Civil Rights Leader. You are deified by those you called the oppressor as a straight-laced, God-fearing, clean-cut, rational Negro willing to compromise to achieve a mutual break-up with the de facto racism of the Jim Crow era.
Most Americans pushed through the standardized curriculum would regurgitate a thank you here, but I cannot bring myself to desecrate your legacy. Instead, I wish to extend my deepest apologies. I am sorry for my role in the dilution of your message. Subdued by the convenience of online activism, your model of workshops and weekly focus groups have been replaced by clicking "interested" on Facebook event invites, maybe attending an annual rally then returning to perpetuate the same cycle you fought against, becoming “more cautious than courageous.”
It is easy to be locked in a perpetual cycle of complacency, beat down by the enormity of the task at hand. We ask ourselves, if THEY are racist, don't THEY need to change? However, you taught us that "freedom is never freely given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." WE must first gather facts, WE must attempt diplomatic negotiations, and then WE must undergo the self-purification process required to engage in the act of civil disobedience. This, the third step you detailed in your Letter from Birmingham Jail, is where I have failed. I know we have the numbers, we have the internet, we have the passion, but I sense we have lacked the willingness to self-purify. For my part, I know self- purification will require the courage I’ve lacked. The courage to unplug from the world that has enabled my complacency; the courage to stand against bigotry even when thousands of others aren’t standing beside me. I don’t pretend to have all the answers nor to possess the capability to lead a wide-scale movement; however, I know I can do better and we can do better. On this day, MLK Day, I begin the self-purification process and will continue to organize on the community level.
Marshall of Marshall Law