I’ve come to realize that today, the day that we commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy in the United States, is a day about power. This has not been an easy realization to come to, but it has been solidified this year. In the past, I often idealized everything about this day. And why wouldn’t I? My family is transracial and possible because of the workings of Dr. King and his fellow soldiers in the struggle for civil rights. My oldest is African American and enjoys the same civil liberties that I enjoy. The doors of opportunity are open to anyone in my family regardless of race in this country that was built on the backs of slaves stolen from Africa, which in and of itself is incredible. But something is still amiss. And it has everything to do with power.
This year I became a public school teacher. Not only that but I teach at, what many would consider to be, an inner city school. And up until last month my oldest attended that school with me. But we withdrew him. The day that solidified this decision in my mind was the day I saw my son in line with his fellow seventh graders being searched by a police officer with his dog. I have never seen him look so powerless or felt myself so powerless in a situation. And yet, it wasn’t the first time a police officer with a dog has searched our students for contraband. And in these moments, I began to see where Dr. Kings vision and mission had not been fully realized. You see, I have never been searched by a police officer and police dog in any situation and I realize something felt very wrong.
Yes, anyone in the United States has the opportunity to make something of themselves. But unfortunately, sometimes the powers that be do everything they can to make that opportunity even more difficult. In a speech Dr King have to the 1967 Southern Christian Leadership Conference entitled Where do we go from here? He said, “What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love. And this is what we must see as we move on.” And that’s the issue isn’t it? Our power is not girded with love and our love is often powerless to do anything about the broken systems around us. Until we see that the “opportunities” afforded each other means nothing when the power that limits these opportunities is fueled by hate, indifference and ignorance; then we still have a long way to go. Dr. King’s vision was beautiful, but we are still scared of what it truly means for our society and I am scared that we may never get there. “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” – Philippians 3:13 May we press on in love with power for the sake of breaking a power without love.