By: Elizabeth Stasiowski Senior Financial Consultant, Finance Team Lead and Co-chair of Insource’s DEI Committee
As we collectively pause today in celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. it is difficult not to notice that our various social media feeds are flooded with inspirational quotes and passages from his writings and speeches on racial justice and equality. However, I’ve noticed that the same few words shared on repeat by white people are often not the ones that speak of the evils of racism. Instead, they are warm-fuzzy quotes, often pulled out of context, and presented in a way as to convey our own progressive bents, and dare we say, alleviate a bit of white guilt.
Picking and choosing the Dr. King we present on our timelines is a hallmark of white privilege. So is the attempt to reduce Dr. King to a few words instead of acknowledging the road he paved for others. Would quote-posters protest alongside King if he were alive today, showing up as white allies? Will they be using their right to vote to elect people of color into positions of leadership? Are they talking to their employers and schools about discriminatory polices? Have they advocated to their schools for black history to be taught outside of just February? Do they call out others for making racists jokes at holiday dinner tables? What real activism is being done?
Racism is pervasive and ever-present. It is systematic – in workplaces, in educational institutions, in politics, and in courtrooms. Racism isn’t limited to something horrible that happened on southern plantations and during Jim Crow. Racial violence is today’s reality too. Some racism is blatant, while some is more discreet. And all of it is harmful. Last year in my town our local Anti-Racist group opened a second Anti-Racist Little Free Library. It was posted on several town-based social media groups. A post that should not have been controversial quickly turned so. A scroll through the comment section exposed a level of racism and ignorance that I wish I could have been surprised by.
Sharing a quote on social media is casual. There is a big difference between being not-for-racism, and being anti-racist. Dr. King believed in radical change and self-sacrifice. He embodied what he claimed, that “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” There is not yet enough white-ally, anti-racist work, and that is silence.
Call out racism, instead of only calling forth peace and unity. We can’t live our best lives using MLK as a once-a-year accessory, while plugging our ears when our BIPOC friends, co-workers, and neighbors tell us their truths. Doing so, makes us hypocrites, and dangerous. If we aren’t helping solve the problem, we’re contributing to it. So as you continue to scroll past the many beautiful, and yes, inspirational quotes from Dr. King calling forth peace and equality, I urge you to go beyond his popular one-liners, read one of his most important works, Letter From a Birmingham Jail, and reflect on the challenges he presented to us.
You can read Letter from a Birmingham Jail in its entirety here.
And ironically, I’d like to leave you with a quote from the great Dr. King. Not one of the warm-fuzzies, but one that might make us uncomfortable, for it is my hope that the discomfort spurs action.
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”
We hope you’ll join us.
With gratitude and hope,
The Insource DEI Committee