Yesterday, we celebrated the anniversary of MLK, a hero of our times.
His impact, his words, his actions have shaped us. After all, who doesn’t remember the tears of joy from so many, seeing an African-American win national office just 40 years after MLK’s death, fulfilling the Dream speech.
What we forget is how much he struggled. In his life, he was viewed by his peers as a rebel. Many thought he was raising a stink over things that didn’t matter. He faced serious arguments with his colleagues, and those he led questioned whether he was the right one to lead them. He got little support on the launch of the Poor People’s Campaign, which is what brought him to Memphis, Tennessee (where he was assassinated, and where the picture is from) to fight for the abolition of economic injustice. You see, MLK was more than a hero; he was also a heretic to the current systems.
We idolize our heroes. Of course we do. It gives us a shining light to celebrate. But it also distances us. By only idolizing those whom we honor, we do a disservice both to them, and to ourselves. By failing to see their humanity, we fail to recognize that our heroes did something that all of us could do.
- To believe in something.
- To pursue it, even when others disagree.
- To be committed against indignity.
There are still issues of economic injustice, today. And, globally, many issues of human rights to resolve. There are still reasons to cry out against the current systems. Perhaps the reasons to cry out are less obvious today. After all, it is “easy” to see that the black workers of the Memphis sanitation department deserved more than working a full week for such low wages that they could still qualify for food aid. Perhaps, we need to look further than the tweet stream to see how justice, economic equality, and human rights need our help. Or perhaps we will see it there as Maria Popova points out.
Let’s go beyond exhalting MLK, and remember the rest of the story. He had his personal and leadership struggles. Those struggles are similar to our own – yours and mine. Let’s not just idolize those whom we honor; let’s also we realize that we could go and do our own bit.
Let’s go and be the kind of heretic that MLK was, shall we?