Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s government designated holiday has officially come and gone for 2019. As usual, the day was filled with symbolic marches, speeches, and programming celebrating the late great civil rights icon. Eulogies, declarations and pledges bejeweled my timelines on all the social media platforms. And, like every year, the day after is as nothing ever happened.
The people who were full of quotes about peace and love the day before on Twitter have returned to posting WorldStarHipHop fight compilation videos.
The politicians who paid MLK lip service on his special day went right back to defiling his legacy just as they were the day before.
Obviously, it is hard to expect people to celebrate Martin Luther King on a regular day more than they do on a day specifically designated for that purpose. With that being said, the rate at which we go back to bastardizing his legacy is deeply problematic.
Dr. King was not fighting for one day out of the year where everyone pretended to care about racial equity and world peace. He was fighting for long-term systemic changes to our society and the world as a whole. To this end, we have failed to live up to his ideals. We have relegated Dr. King and his teachings to a span of about a month.
We have turned Dr. King into a civil rights Santa Clause. MLK day comes, we celebrate, revisit during February, then wait for it to come around again next year. It’s almost like there is a civil rights season. And unfortunately, this is the way the kids see it too.
My students think it’s important to do certain things on MLK day and during February but not on others days of the year. I teach history and I will hear some complaints if I’m not talking about MLK leading up to the holiday. I’m going to hear about it if I don’t teach some black history in February. I’m not going to hear anything about it after that though.
Some of that is their fault, but most of it is ours. We, as a society, have taught them that Martin Luther King’s dream is only important on a specific day.
So, I’m challenging myself, to hold myself to MLK’s standard all year.
I’m holding my students accountable, to holding me and the other teachers accountable all year long.
Find a way in your life to live up to Dr. King’s ideals year-round.
Let’s make sure the dream isn’t deferred for 11 months out of the year.