by Martha Delmore
"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies." - Martin Luther King Jr.
In a world where divisiveness feels more common than unity, there is no better time to take a moment to remember a man who pressed into the discomfort of brokenness caused by oppression in a quest for equality. One of the most transformative activists in our country's young history, Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership brought about the end of legal segregation in the South and earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
At the age of 14, after growing up in Atlanta, he went to work at a tobacco farm in the North. For the first time, he experienced integration--people of color attending the same churches, riding the same buses, and eating in the same places as white people. Like any human, experiencing something that was previously unimaginable was life-altering and created a perspective that was priorly absent.
Martin Luther King Jr. was perhaps best known, and is still celebrated, for facilitating and leading peaceful protests; he shined a light onto the injustice he and many experienced through organized, non-violent protests. He stated that,
"Nonviolence is the absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one's whole being into the being of another."
It is impossible to deny how far we have come from a time of racially segregated schools and swimming pools. And yet, there is still tension.
Still people are asking, even demanding, we listen.
When we feel the tension, perhaps a rush of shame or a knot of anger in our stomach, may we pause and remember Martin Luther King Jr.. May we take notice of the reaction in our minds and our bodies, take a deep breath, and invite a posture of curiosity. May we remember that our lens is limited, and elevate voices who can share perspectives we don't yet have because of experiences we've not had. May we forgive freely, remember that love is an active outpouring, and search to root out our own areas of darkness.
And may each of us strive for a more just world for everyone, remembering King's words:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
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