“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late…. We must move past indecision to action…. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful struggle for a new world.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
When we post MLK quotes on MLK day, I hope we’re asking ourselves, “What am I doing NOW to actively fight racism and discrimination?” “Am I NOW checking my own privilege that prevents me from recognizing the pain experienced in marginalized communities?” “What can I do NOW?” Today, is it enough to say that we value and support Black lives, but still struggle to say “Black Lives Matter,” or think we aren’t being racist in our personal lives just because we’ve never been participants (although, admittedly, too often as bystanders)?
I recently came across a video that outlined the differences between being non-racist and anti-racist. Essentially, it notes that the passivity of being a “non-racist” really equates to not doing a damn thing in regards to actively fighting against racism and discrimination (being “anti-racist.”) In short: no, it’s not enough to do nothing.
All of this has me thinking about the fairly recent Mormon Newsroom piece entitled “Race Relations,” which attempts to paint the attitude that everything is generally fine and happy in regards to how members of color are viewed and treated in church congregations. It exudes “everything is fine now and that’s all that matters!” Never mind a history of racism and discrimination that barred people of color (specifically members of African descent) from official ministerial positions. So far, there have been no apologies of past wrongs, because there is no acknowledgement of present repercussions.
Can issues and race relations be truly repaired and okay if we’re not willing to openly talk about those “bumps in the road,” let alone recognize and acknowledge problematic beliefs and attitudes today? Are we, as Latter-day Saints, passively non-racist or actively anti-racist? Are we speaking up and stepping aside?
Regardless of how progressive some of us think we are, there’s still always more work to do. As a person of color, I’m not immune to racism I’ve internalized, so there’s a constant need to educate myself.
Instead of sharing a MLK, Jr. quote one day out of the year, and then ignoring microaggressions and blatant racism the rest of the year, I hope we take this day to really dissect and acknowledge our privileges, the negative attitudes we harbor, and the generalizations we make towards people of color. Think about how these attitudes affect us, and how they especially affect marginalized communities, in every facet of our lives (at work, at church, at school, in our communities, in our homes and in our personal lives), and begin to genuinely care about people. Then continue to ask yourself, “Am I non-racist or anti-racist?” and actively correct as needed.