statue of Martin Luther King Jr

Has Anything Changed?

Fifty-four years after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed outside a motel in Memphis, has anything changed?

Two years after the “racial reckoning” sparked by the murder of George Floyd, has anything changed?

In our country? In our churches? In our individual lives? 

I listened to a Code Switch podcast conversation about this topic, where they pointed out that support for Black Lives Matter among white people rose after George Floyd’s death. Not surprisingly, that surge of support didn’t last too long. 

But what I didn’t expect is that now, not even two years later, white support of Black Lives Matter is lower than it was before George Floyd was killed. Congress cannot agree on legislation to protect voting rights for all Americans. School boards across the country are fighting about how and whether to teach about race in classrooms.

Are our social divisions only getting more pronounced? 

I think back to Dr. King’s own words in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Apathy to injustice is more dangerous than opposition. It is at this moment, when white opposition to teaching the history of institutionalized racism in this country is rising, when support for Black Lives Matter is waning, that white people who care about repairing the harm of centuries of racial injustice need to continue the work of repentance and repair.

Decades ago, Dr. King wrote:

“I never intend to become adjusted to the evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination, to the moral degeneracy of religious bigotry and the corroding effects of narrow sectarianism, to economic conditions that deprive men of work and food, and to the insanities of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.”

May we too never become adjusted to an unjust status quo. As we remember Dr. King’s life, let us also remember his words:

“We must make a choice. Will we continue to march to the drumbeat of conformity and respectability, or will we, listening to the beat of a more distant drum, move to its echoing sounds? Will we march only to the music of time, or will we, risking criticism and abuse, march to the soulsaving music of eternity?”

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