The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend always seems to bring about a bit of reflection time for me. It’s not specifically because I get an extra day off from work and can sit around and think about random things, but moreso because I undoubtedly attend an MLK-related event or two throughout the weekend.
With that being the case, I often end up refreshing my memory on an MLK quote or two, sometimes hearing a quote of his for the first time, and always hearing his philosophies and beliefs applied to pressing current events or those of the preceding year.
This year was no different. With the overwhelming amount of civil unrest – including in the Charlotte area, a polarizing and divisive presidential election, and a palpable level of racial tension nationwide, there was plenty to be discussed in the way of progress and backtracking.
Quotes were doled out like Halloween candy. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere; Let no man pull you so low as to hate him,” etc.
Many of these I had heard growing up. However, in doing my own research, I came across a quote of his not so often reiterated at programs dedicated to his honor:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
This stuck out to me this year more than any of the more popular quotes, but for an unconventional reason – I think the opposite. I’m more concerned where people stand in moments of comfort and convenience.
The officer-involved shootings of the last couple of years, for example, have brought about a new revival in the art of protests, marches and calls for reform. But it also brought with it a great deal of “bandwagon support.” It brought with it people who – in moments of comfort and convenience – offer little to the cause they are so passionate about until controversy brings about a resurgence.
It brought with it people who never volunteer in their own communities, have never served to mentor younger generations, take no part in the political process, support no minority businesses, casually and freely use the “N” word with no regard to its oppressive history, and glorify black-on-black violence caught on home video (a la WorldstarHipHop), but who will rise to arms when a White person says something that could even be remotely characterized as racist.
For educators, this would be akin to the parent who never visits the school, never calls the teachers, never attends PTA meetings, and never volunteers to chaperone for field trips, but who will leave work at the drop of a dime and march up to the school to lash out on a teacher who says something unappreciated to their student.
My point is this: For your commitment to social justice to be real, genuine and believable, it CANNOT exist only when there is conflict.
The My Brother's Keeper Scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is an endowment fund targeted to Black males majoring in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields at UNCC. Learn more at www.unccmybrotherskeeper.org.