2020 was a harrowing year in America’s rich and complicated history.
Our great nation was faced with a novel virus and an old deeply ingrained racial disease aching for healing and remedy. As the nation has come together in solidarity to fight COVID19, the nation needs to unite against the disease of racial prejudice.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s message of strength, love and reconciliation holds true even more today than a half century ago. As we come upon MLK day to celebrate and remember his noble life and cause, it’s becoming evident that a national collective consciousness is beginning to take shape.
The fight for racial equality in America has been long and hard. One of the very first major steps towards the fight for equality happened in 1919 following what is known as the Red Summer.
In one the most disgraceful acts of terrorism, black businesses and homes in Tulsa, Oklahoma were burned and destroyed by acts of racial hate. These events fueled the momentum, passion and the desire for the empowerment of a newly organized foundation called the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
The 60’s protests were a continuation of outrage at centuries of racial injustice in America. It coincided with the women’s rights movement and infused a new energy into the push for rights in laws of the land and our collective consciousness which were championed by visionaries like Dr Martin Luther King. Dr. MLK’s message was one of strength and love.
With that said, the protests and fight for justice were largely carried on the shoulders of African Americans as the rest of the nation only watched. In the words of Dr. King, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal” and “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Dr. MLK’s tireless endeavors helped bring the ugly face of racism back to the forefront and helped in the push towards equality in our laws. However, racial biases and racism still lurk in our social, economic, educational and financial systems. It became evident that simply passing laws is not enough in eliminating racism.
You cannot legislate love, in the words of Dr Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Something more profound and fundamental needs to happen in our nation for racism and prejudice to be abolished for good.
The Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) which was invigorated as a result of the unjust killings of black civilians also energized protests all around the world in calling out against injustices in their own land. The world watches for America’s example in every aspect of our actions.
Something remarkable was noted during the recent Black Lives Matter movement. For the first time in American history, the majority of the march participants were white (54%) compared to 21% African American. This diverse representation of races united with a common cause mobilized by BLM movement has changed the narrative from the “black” fight to a fight for “justice and equality” by citizens of every race.
The world looks at the U.S as a leader and an example in promoting justice and equality among its people. This global and fundamental change seems to be happening at an individual and spiritual level, where every member of the society and community has a sense of the fundamental oneness of all people and a responsibility to promote and protect social equity and equality among all it’s members regardless of the color of their skin, gender and racial origin. As Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith stated over 150 years ago, “ Ye are all leaves of one tree and the fruits of one branch.”
This spiritual transformation will not happen overnight, but through individual initiatives united through a collective cause it will change the very institutions which govern us and not vice versa as was customary in the past. If one of us feels pain, so do we all, and we won’t stop until we are free from injustice. As Dr. MLK stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We stand strong on the shoulders of brave men and women such as Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights giants who fought hard to break through ignorance and prejudice. Just as the next generation will be relying on us in moving this country forward into a more free and just society.
Let’s all do our part in bringing justice, quality and equity for all in gestures large and small. Together as small droplets, we form a large wave that can break social barriers and bring about a more pleasant and just grounds for all of us.
The Baha’i community of Paradise Valley in conjunction with the Town of Paradise Valley has hosted the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Life for the past 20 years.
This year the celebration will be held virtually on Jan. 18 at 11 a.m. Please join us at www.mlkparadisevalley.org/livestreaming.
Editor’s Note: Darya Iganian is a grade 8 student attending Veritas Academy. Her passions include lacrosse, and participation in the Junior Youth committee focused on community service.