The unfortunate reality we live in today is that in many ways, Martin Luther King, Jr. has become a figure distorted by white supremacists in order to silence modern-day protesters. When Black Lives Matter activists show that they are not ashamed of their blackness and that they are prepared to fight against racial and economic oppression, MLK is thrown in their faces as an argument against their movement, saying that King would have agreed that “all lives matter,” and that his end goal was, as he said in his famous “Dream” speech, to “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Paradoxically, in celebrating a day in King’s honor, his true beliefs have been misapplied, muted, and too often forgotten entirely.
To think that King wanted to live in a race-free, color-blind society is to misconstrue the Civil Rights Movement. Quotes like these have been taken completely out of context and are used in order to silence, shame, and oppress minorities. The existence of race was not the underlying cause of oppression to King; rather, oppression stems from the way race was and still is exploited in order to socially and economically subjugate black Americans. King by no means thought that his race was a problem or something that had to be eliminated in order to finally achieve equality. Rather, he stressed that to effect change, we must interrogate the underlying power structures of our society, actively protesting a world seemingly designed to persecute those who are not white, straight, and male.
For our second annual MLK issue, we have chosen three articles that we hope illustrate King’s true message, not only arguing why protest is still a valuable and essential way to fight for racial justice, but also bringing attention to the ways African Americans and other minorities face oppression in all aspects of life, even at elite, supposedly liberal institutions such as ours. Our understanding of King’s legacy must extend beyond a tacit approval of his now seemingly uncontroversial ideas. We hope that these articles inspire you to think, reflect, and join the fight toward racial equality.
—Cole Martin and Sarah Zimmerman, Viewpoints editors
Editor’s Note: The following articles were included in print in the January 17th, MLK Day-themed Viewpoints section:
- "A New Form of Political Discourse" by Elizabeth Adetiba and Stephanie Greene
- "Making a Space for Black Women in Academia" by Jenn Jackson
- "When Will My Reflection Show?" by Adia Robinson