There are so many different quotes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that I could highlight. I choose these five favorites, well at least favorites right now. Over the years, there have been so many that I’ve really connected with and my top quotes are constantly evolving.
“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now. “
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
“Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.”
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
There are times, especially over the last four years, that I’ve thought about how badly we need a person like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. again in our world. Nearly 60 years after he gave his I Have A Dream speech, it feels I don’t know what the words are, but that we have lost the momentum of the change that came through the civil rights movement.
There is massive work which is still undone.
As a white man, there is no more privileged position one can be in – in this country – from a gender and race standpoint.
My Jewish heritage is hidden behind my fathers last name. Driving down the street I won’t be pulled over unless I really try to get noticed by the police by driving excessively fast. At first glance, no one knows that I’m not a college graduate. Or that I’m the son of a carnival owner where we lived in a travel trailer until I was 7 years old. The only thing we couldn’t cover up was how poor we were. It was the kind of poor that you only had to see us driving down the street or come over to our 600 sq ft. house that had been built with remaindered wood and sitting on cinder blocks.
It wasn’t an easy life. And while I can be proud of how far each of us from our family have come, I know we did have it easier than if we had been black, or any other race but white. We could hide. My parents told us to hide. Never tell anyone our story. Don’t tell them about being Jewish, don’t tell them about where your family comes from, or what they do for a living. Never ever tell them you are a carney. Hide. And we could. Because of the color of our skin we could hide.
So long as white America denies that there is different America’s for different people, it is extremely difficult to make progress. Until we recognize the damage that has been done by those who even, to this day, continue to believe in a better America for some people than others. That rights are not for everyone.
My ancestors were killed, enslaved for millennia, persecuted and to this day despised by many because of their race and the religion they practiced. When I tell someone that I’m Jewish, I get – “oh, that makes sense”, but they can never explain what that means and why it finally all makes sense.
And still, as a privileged white middle aged man, I view every day as another chance to become not only better educated, but wiser. It is wisdom to realize that your experience is not everyone else’s experience. And because someone else is different from you, that does not make them your enemy.
There will never be a level playing field. There will always be the haves and the have nots. And yet, it is important though that we live up to the promise we make that the level of the field will not be based on gender and race, sexuality or disability. Everyone is invited. This is the great fight that we are all engaged in, whether we realize it or not. To live up to the promise of equality.
I certainly don’t have the answers. And I know, that by even speaking my truth, I’m opening myself up to attack. The time for being quiet because you could make a mistake or be taken wrong needs to be over. We need to bring back civil discourse. Discussion. Sharing. And yes, I’ll say something wrong from time to time.
But I’m open to learning and trying. We have to do this if we want to make things better. Not better in a hundred years, but better today. We can peacefully fight oppression. It isn’t a matter of race, it is the duty of all to fight oppression.
As you read this, if you’ve made it this far, know that I’ve decided to still publish this even knowing it feels kind of incomplete. It isn’t a fully realized idea. And still, I think it important to share. To share on this day of service, this day of remembrance, and this day where learning to come together and share ideas is more important than getting it exactly right.