Today commemorates civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the United States. Framed as a national day of service, the observance has been and still is fraught, with many people still objecting to it on grounds that ought not to be entertained. For while there are some problems inherent in the person, as there are in all people, and while there were and are many others involved in the continuing struggle for racial justice and for social justice more generally, the good Dr. King did and has inspired deserve commemoration and honor.
For many, today is a day away from work. For no few, notably those working in retail, it is a day of increased demands, with some people still rushing to avail themselves of sales and specials despite the surrounding pandemic and the upheaval that has been too much on display and too little redressed, if perhaps less than other recent holidays because of those holidays and the pressing demands of the still-new year. But that seems to be the way of things, that those who are most in need of rest cannot find it, while those most in need of sober reflection and who would most benefit from doing good work in the world will not find either. I am not a scholar of Dr. King and his works, and I am trying to avoid the problems pointed out by Layla F. Saad insofar as I am able, so I would not presume to speak to “what he would think” about current circumstances. For what it is worth, I deplore them.
It is not enough, however, for me simply to note that I deplore things, or for anyone to do so. It is a useful start, yes, but those who would move forward cannot remain where they begin. My ability to do more at the moment is limited, but what I can do now, I still do, and when I have been able to do more, I have done that. It is not enough, I know, and it will not be on its own. We–and it is an amorphous we, though still too large a one–are not yet at the point where it is the content of character–evidenced by deeds and words–rather than the color of the skin that occasions judgment. Looking at what is around, I think it will be a long time until we get to that point, and some will have to be dragged every inch of the way.
I hope at least not to resist going along for that ride.