This weekend I plan to continue a Martin Luther King Jr. Day tradition I started last year.
Here’s what I wrote last year for MLK Day in my local paper, the South Bend Tribune:
This weekend the country is going through the annual ritual of whitewashing King’s legacy in order to make him palatable to white moderates. We will listen to sanctimonious sermons and speeches that will claim King as a national hero and thereby imply that we are worthy as a nation to carry his mantle. We will no doubt hear words of praise for King spoken by the president himself.
As a white moderate myself—and a Christian minister at that—I will be observing the holiday differently this year. Instead of assuming that King is on my side, and I on his, I will be reflecting on how, if King were alive today, he would be disappointed with me and my peers. In particular, I will be meditating on these words from his letter [from Birmingham jail] that are as relevant today as they were on the day he penned them from a jail cell: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of bad people but for the appalling silence of good people.”
You can read the rest of my essay, “If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today…” in the SBT opinion section. Will you join me in reading King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” today? If so, share your reactions in the comments section below.