It’s beautiful. Truly, it is. To come together in solidarity and stand shoulder to shoulder as we collectively move the needle forward.
But it’s simply not enough.
This morning we made our way to our local MLK March. We showed up with kids in tow and found our spot at the back of the gathering as it had already started moving forward. (Typical…I’m pretty much ALWAYS late.) The air was chilly, but the sun was out. We marched from a nearby park towards our small downtown square, alongside our neighbors and other peacemakers from our little town. There were adorable kids all bundled up, lots of dogs, laugher and reverence, all of it swirling into a picturesque event.
While admittedly it’s amazing to be in the flow of a sea of people gathered to up hold the dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. made his life’s work, it’s not enough to go to a march once a year, take some photos and keep living unchanged.
King was extremely controversial and so were his demonstrations. He was threatened, harassed and ultimately killed for his beliefs and actions. And he was certainly not perfect. Who is? But when we (white people) only quote him in small snippets or post memes of his sermons or essays, we’ve stopped short. We’ve failed to get to the heart of what he was spearheading. In those moments, I feel like we’ve centered it back on us and how good we are to show up for these gatherings or sport the t-shirt with MLK’s silhouette.
Y’all, I’m talking to myself here too…please know that. This is a critique of myself as much as anything. And this runaway train of thoughts started back on Saturday when I was talking to a 6-year-old and a 10-year-old about MLK’s life, work and theology in preparation to attend the march today. I realized, as a white woman, how much I STILL needed to grow in my understanding of his work and my ignorance of the places my own white privilege crops up – and often it’s where we least expect it, trust me.
So what does enough even look like? NO idea.
However, I do think it has more to do with our individual inner work than we care to admit.
But for now, I’ll continue to look for ways to educate myself about the systems I benefit from that harm people of colour. King talked about those systems a lot. (Don’t get too prickly at that thought, white friends. VERY often these are systems we didn’t ask to be part of either…but we are, by default.) I’ll continue to read and try educate myself about what it looks like to move through world as a true ally, but I’ll do that knowing I’ll get it wrong sometimes. I’ll look for wisdom from black voices like Austin Channing Brown, Belle Hooks, William Matthews and for humility in difficult books like White Fragility by Robin Diangelo.
**PSA: If you are white – please read that book. It’ll test you, and in the end you might be left with some grief, but that’s a good thing.**
I guess I have to believe that doing the hard work and inching towards enough is the next right thing we can all do. To my white friends reading, what are you gonna do with all that power? Let’s go.