MLK Today: Racism is not a Simple Black and White Issue

We cannot treat racism as a simple black and white issue in the 21st century. It’s a multi-faceted issue: obscure, deep, and at times indistinguishable. If the above photo was part of an art exhibition and your job was to distinguish its meaning, you would likely contrive different meanings, altering perceptions. And that is what color and racism is like.

You see something that resembles a hypnosis object: black rectangles overlaying larger white rectangles, which create some aesthetic parallelism. But then again, what you see is deceptive. What you see is not always what you get. We must build on the toppling mountain of understanding, treat it as an absolute, and use its platform to dispel the ignorance that’s responsible for creating not only racial division, but too, racial inequality.

When we say that we “don’t see color”, for instance, we’re breeding a poisonous nest of black and brown subjugation. Color is real and color exists. Living in this absence-of-color box is dangerous and creates a bigger cultural wedge of misunderstanding. Pointing out the essence of color in race doesn’t make you a race-bating leftist: it makes you a product of the solution.

Martin Luther King, and other civil rights activists were products of the progressive solution in the 60s. And in the 60s, MLK and other civil rights activists received backlash from right-wing fundamentalists for putting forth a map to guide black people to freedom. They were labeled as warmongers, part of the law-and-order problem, and therefore, at the top of the conservative agenda to restore law and order in society. They called it “getting tough on crime”, to deviate from the possibility of coming off as racist and prejudice. Essentially, there was no absolute crime in relation to degeneracy. The true crime existed within African-Americans voicing their grievances, those of the oppressed, in the form of organized marches, sit-ins, etc. The point is that while our society has overtly made progress, our society is one that is still erroneous. Yes, the colonialism that was responsible for slavery is ultimately dead, but alternative systems of control, primarily the mass incarceration and housing crisis, create a discrete form of inequality that overpowers the black and brown poor and disadvantaged.

What we hope for is more social parallelism, which is why we’re still discussing racial inequality as a central issue in the 21st century. We’re not quite there yet, but for those of us striving to create understanding and disband the system of disinformation, we know we must keep the discussion alive to manifest fair social recognition for all of our neighbors.

Here are some MLK quotes with profound resonance:

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

“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.”

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

“Many white Americans of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation. They have deplored prejudice but tolerated or ignored economic injustice.”


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