** // This post was originally published Jan. 18th 2016
2015, 16, & 17 were entirely brutal and unrelenting years for everyone. African-American men found dead on television, children brutally beat up via social media, and wives and mothers constantly in fear over the news. Hitting waves and hearts in San Francisco, we ask ourselves—what does MLK day really mean anymore?
*This is an open letter that encourages its reader to think freely about concepts and ideas that better a forward thinking society.
As I laid in bed around 4:10am grasping the idea that today was MLK day, most Americans are only thinking about getting the day off from their boring day jobs (we’re looking at you Cosmo Mag…) but with nearly 50 years of African American men and woman gaining their rights as normal American citizens, you still see where the public has gone wrong and where it continues to go wrong.
But why? How did this distinct shift become skewed through the early 2000′s? Possibly the invention of the internet, the invention of social networking, the idea that sharing is now a common law in 2017? Today we reflect on the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr and the work he has done to take America and the people who live, work, and thrive here to a higher plane where all men and women were equal. During the civil rights movement from 1955 – 1968, the people whether African-American or supporters of the movement looked to MLK for his wise words on politics, lifestyle, and inspiration. He could be heard across the nation and he was just one man who wanted to change the way we perceived life and the common good. On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence, which astonished and astounded the American people. He was a man that threw no punch, spoke no ill words, and swayed the minds of many.
Flashback to 2016, the sad and eye opening death of Mario Woods. A tragic police shooting that took the life of the Bay Area resident. “Two cellphone videos surfaced shortly after the shooting last week. Burris released a third video Friday, which he says shows that the 26-year-old was shot by officers without provocation.“ – SF Gate. The death of Mario Woods came at bigger shock because in a city where expression and innovation are highly praised, a higher standard had been put on the situation. Mario Woods, in most articles, was stated to be non violent during the situation but when he stepped to the right of the police officer, they opened fire.
During the civil rights movement, Lyndon B. Johnson (President at the time) gave a very powerful speech in favor of rights for all, “We can understand–without rancor or hatred–how this all happened. But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I will sign tonight forbids it.“ Now coming from an interesting angle, this is what Mayor Ed Lee had to say about the situation, “For us to get to a point where we really have a practice and a policy that lethal force is the last resort, we have to get more dialogue, we have to get more African Americans involved in the Police Department“ – SF Gate.
So where did the American people drop the ball? Or have they yet? The power of social media, namely Snapchat and Periscope allow users to record and save video / photographs that can be instantly shared to over 4.6 billion people around the planet. A wildfire of realization set in quickly with the people and now whenever you’re around someone who distinctly hates the color of your skin, you whip out your phone likes it’s the last saving grace. But who is hearing our cries, our screams, or pleads for reform and change? Who is, essentially, our modern day MLK? Some would say Obama, some would same Bernie Sanders, but who is not apart of a political party and who resorts to words rather than fists, bullets, fire, or chaos?
We recently saw a video on our feed of a man describing the differences between non-racists and anti-racists. To make a long story short, non-racists are the ones who say they are not racist but won’t take action to help causes, charities, or organizations. Non refers to you blending into the shade of American up-bringing and ultimately keeping your mouth shut. Watch it here.
Our take away, “We need to hold people accountable.” Which makes us think, did we hold MLK accountable for when bad things happened to good people? Honestly, yes we did. But for a man with such power in his voice, he handled the situation with a sense of grace the American people in 2016 clearly can’t possess. We, as the people, are swayed by every bit of media that lodges itself into our cranium – ____ was killed, _______ was beaten, __________ was set on fire. All the situations have horrifying sub-stories that create a multi-contingency of angles.
But how could you think about MLK day as not your day off but as your time to reflect on current events? After 50 years, we’re given a day off. We’re given a day to let down our guard and face challenge to its fullest. Today opens up a window for us to act. And act fast. For tomorrow comes soon and the days will keep on moving.