Honoring Martin Luther King’s Legacy of Justice

By Jasmine Grippe

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.”
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we want to lift up his powerful analysis from his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that rings as true today as it did then.

Our nation’s racial tensions, no longer hidden, are once again out in the open as so-called “patriots” wave confederate flags in our nation’s capital and at state capitals around the country. But we will not be intimidated by hatred or fear. We cannot allow our democracy and freedoms to be threatened by white supremacists. We must honor the legacy of Dr. King, the leaders of the Civil Rights movement and all those who have given their lives in the pursuit of freedom and justice.

For too long, many national, state and local leaders have been complicit in allowing capitalism, racism and white supremacy to guide public budgets, policy and legislation. They talk about the disproportionate impact to Black, Latinx and immigrant communities, while doing nothing to reverse the decades of systemic racism and neglect.

This year we honor Dr. King in a moment caught between two crises, a raging pandemic and a dangerous and brazen display of white supremacy. At this turning point, we need bold leadership, not complicit white moderates; we need action, not need meaningless words. We demand accountability at every level of government: from Majority Leader Schumer, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio. Our children, families and communities need strategic investments. We need access to high quality public schools, affordable housing, good paying jobs and healthcare.

There are currently tens of thousands of students across New York State that still don’t have access to technology, reliable WiFi or a device. There are just as many students, if not more, who are experiencing the deep trauma of homelessness. We cannot turn a blind eye to the growing needs of children and families, and we cannot ignore the racist radicals in the streets.

Justice in this moment demands urgent action from our elected leaders to protect our most vulnerable, and to bring accountability to aggressors. We cannot wait for a “more convenient season” to fund the schools. We cannot wait for a “more convenient season” to house the homeless. We cannot wait for a “more convenient season” to expand healthcare to all. The time to legislate justice in our national, state and local policies and budgets is now.

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