MLK Day: Beyond the “Dream” & “Arc” quotes

Two or three years ago, I doubt I’d have recognized the quote that Bernice King asked we share this MLK Day weekend.

My education wasn’t constructed in a way that it provided a thorough, let alone accurate, account of King’s legacy nor the fight for Civil Rights. Although I learned that some racist, bad people hated MLK and killed him. The message was so whitewashed that my interpretation was something like:
– Things were really bad, King preached eloquantly and led a lot of marches and some really bad people killed him.
-Things aren’t as bad now (because of “dream”) and they continue to get better, (slowly, but fast enough “arc”).
-To remember this whole thing that’s in the past, we get Dr. Martin Luther King jr Day off from school and it’s always a Monday, so it’s long weekend.
-The end.

I’m Gen X and grew up in new England, so maybe the experience differed geographically or changed over time, but I doubt it. There is so very much more. And it is very much not about conditions that are relegated to our past. The conditions of injustice, the structures of inequity, and the harm are great and even expanding today.

I had no idea. And worse, I thought I did. Today, I feel betrayed by my education in history. Not by my teachers, they were in a system that they likely couldn’t see either. I don’t know who or what I’m specifically mad at about the past – and I don’t always know about the present, either. I do try to use the energy to learn differently now though. Some history lessons hurt, but it feels better than deception, any day.

Many of us have three days this weekend. It’s freakin’ cold in the northeast, maybe we all find one new MLK quote this year? Maybe we learn a little more about the context of the quote or read the whole speech? Maybe?

If you’re interested, I’ll share a couple of links to resources I’m using to expand my own understanding this weekend:

The King Holiday Observance with The King Center

The Second Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.: King’s nightmare of racism is being presented as his dream. An article in The Atlantic by Ibram X Kendi