"We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
Two years ago, Jessica and I took a trip to Memphis to do some research for a book she's hoping to find time to write. While there, we visited the Civil Rights Museum. I haven't been the same since, which I think means it's a worthwhile experience. Everyone should go. EVERYONE.
If you aren't familiar with the museum, it's inside the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated almost fifty years ago. It's self-guided so you can spend as much time as you need. We needed all the time. There is so much information and, of course, all of it is heavy and it seemed disrespectful to breeze through any of it. And I didn't want to. The museum covers everything from slavery to present day. And, spoiler alert, the way it's laid out, you end the tour in Dr. King's hotel room. I can't adequately describe what that felt like, but I can try. I was awestruck, sad, hopeful, mildly disgusted that someone so wonderful was murdered five feet from where I was standing, and I felt guilty. A lot of guilt. Because I'm white. I felt guilty the entire time I was there. To the best of my knowledge, I have never done or said anything even remotely racist. However, I do recognize that, just because I happened to be born white, I do have some advantages. On top of being white, I was also, by the luck of the draw, born in America; supposedly the greatest country in the world. My cup of privilege runneth over. The only way anything is ever going to change is for people like me to admit that. So, here I am, admitting it publicly.
Instead of sharing any number of the inspiring quotes Dr. King left us with, try to gain some perspective by having a conversation with someone who has a different background than you or read a book written by a person of color. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is an excellent choice. As is March, the graphic novel series written by civil rights activist turned Congressman, John Lewis. If reading isn't your thing and you feel like being a strange combination of outraged and sad, watch Time: the Kalief Browder Story on Netflix. Sit through all six hours of that and then tell me the justice system is fair.
Dr. King dedicated his life to spreading a message of peace, justice, and equality; all that begins with compassion and empathy. Educate yourself, speak up, and do better.