In another class we watched a video about Martin Luther King, Jr. We didn't talk much about MLK when I was in school. We knew who he was, but his birthday wasn't really celebrated yet, and I lived in a rural community of less than a thousand people that was pretty homogenous. It didn't seem like King's life affected us too much.
But without King's life, I wouldn't be living where I am today...one of the few white males on my block in the midst of Somali, Hmong, Ecuadorian, Native American, African American and mixes of many races. My kids wouldn't have the blessing of diversity in their classes at school.
Have we come a long way? Yes. Do we still have a journey ahead of yes? Yes.
If we think that King was all about Black rights, then we missed his message. He marched and sat in jails for the sake of equality for all: African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and even whites. His dream was for our American foundation to be fulfilled that all people are created equal. We still have a ways to go. Women still make less money than men in the same job with the same amount of experience. African Americans are imprisoned at a rate much higher than other races. Poverty and disease is highest among people of color. When we moved into our neighborhood we were told that whites don't belong here. Racism, segregation and divisions still exist among us. We can't move forward as a nation if we are leaving each other behind. King's dream wasn't for himself, but for future generations. He was living change forward.
King based his approach of nonviolent protestation on Gandhi. Gandhi's struggle for freedom in India was the one example King had witness of nonviolent activism working. Gandhi based his approach on the teachings of Jesus. King, being a pastor, was familiar with Jesus' teachings of "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemy." But Gandhi, not the church, was where he had to turn for seeing it lived out.
Justice is a thing of Christ, not of social activists. Jesus came and turned social structures upside down. He touched those whom society said not to go near, He reached below the class system and lifted people up (as well as humbling those who were lofty), He showed love to those who were considered enemies of the faithful Jews and He welcomed everyone--young, old, rich, poor, sick, impaired, lame, male, female--into His loving presence.
It's not easy. To reach beyond our own culture is hard work. We've experienced this even in Minneapolis. The inner city--no matter what color the people are--has a very different culture than the suburbs (again, no matter what race). We're drawn to what and who we're familiar with and comfortable. But in stepping over those divides, in working to bridge cultures, we enrich our lives.
I believe that what King was working toward was Heaven here on earth (Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven). Heaven will not be a place for just whites. Or just blacks. Or just Koreans. There will be no segregation. Every tribe, tongue, and nation will be there praising God. Without prejudice, division or separation. For we are all created in God's image. It is in our diversity that we see the greatness of God. And when we trod each other down and hold other's back we limit our understanding of who God is. He is love. He loves all, for all are His children. Jane Adams knew this. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this. Even Mahondas Gandhi knew this. May we know it and embody it as well.