Dr Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream.
I’m pretty sure this wasn’t it.
This America, more fractured than ever.
This heart sickness, as insidious as its ever been.
This toxic enmity, still coursing through our veins.
This denial of humanity based on pigmentation.
This argument over the value of black lives.
This American President, the greatest of dividers.
These hateful men and women, applauding and amen-ing him and defending him.
These white children of immigrants, still somehow imaging this place their sole birthright.
These white Evangelicals, still wielding Bible and contempt for people of color simultaneously.
This American church, still the most segregated space in the nation.
The America that Dr King dreamed of is still a place off in the distance.
It is still only an aspiration; a great hope yet realized, a glorious reality not yet stepped into.
It is a beautiful dream still relegated to sleep and the yet to come.
And while these things remain true, we who believe in the dream can’t rest.
We cannot celebrate his life adequately without reminding this nation of (as he said), “the fierce urgency of now.”
This now is more fiercely urgent than its ever been.
White friends, it is a fine thing to contend that you celebrate the man today; to post memes and share quotes, but know that these things are easy.
There is no real cost to them and no investment of yourself in them.
They are the cheapest and safest form of activism.
Dr King’s dream was costly.
It was a pearl of greater price.
It was worth his life.
Is it worth ours?
There is much work we need to do today if we want to rightly begin to honor the man and the dream.
We cannot celebrate Martin Luther King’s Jr’s life without fully grieving.
We can’t do it without lamenting Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka and Jeff Sessions and Mitch McConnell.
We can’t do it while defending the expulsion of immigrants and the denial of refugees.
We can’t do it while waving Confederate flags and worshiping monuments to slavery’s legacy.
We can’t do it without mourning the young black men who still die without cause during traffic stops.
We can’t do it while funding border walls and voter ID laws and gerrymandering.
We can’t do it without confronting our racist uncles and xenophobic neighbors; our prejudiced pastors, bigoted bosses, and supremacist Presidents—and the blind spots of these things within ourselves that enable and unknowingly partner with them all.
We can’t do it without seeing the privilege we are both blessed and afflicted with; without fighting to craft something redemptive out of it, without leveraging it in the cause of the Dream, without fashioning it into a shield against the dream-killers.
And we can’t celebrate Martin Luther King Jr’s life without actively and loudly resisting this President.
We can’t do it without pushing back at the supremacy on display in his Cabinet.
We can’t do it while tolerating legislation that deports dreamers.
We can’t do it while excusing his remarks about shithole countries.
We can’t do it while normalizing the way he dehumanizes Muslims.
We can’t do it while letting him vilify kneeling black NFL players.
We can’t do it while he takes us backward to the days before Dr King and his dream were born.
White friends, this America is not the America Dr. King dreamed of; and until it is, we who share the dream need to steward that dream in such a way that it brings us conflict and discomfort and injury—because his dream requires such things from the privileged.
It requires a price greater than the seconds it takes to compose a Tweet on a day off from work.
Dr King’s dream and his life and so worth celebrating.
They are worth remembering.
They are worth pausing to honor.
But more than that, they are worth living and fighting and dying for.
May we who share his dream, steward it well until it is no longer a dream at all—but the glorious reality of our national daylight.
Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.