"Peace proposals unaccompanied by a sworn covenant indicate a plot." —Sun Tzu, The Art of War
"We are all just trying to be holy." —Richard Siken, Snow and Dirty Rain
If we’re going to talk about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I want to talk about the tactician. I want to talk about the general who methodically moved the war banner of racial equity across the country—who died in the fight.
I want to talk about this Martin Luther King because most of the time, instead of talking about that person, we talk about how the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. We talk about the King that talked to us about love and the importance of equity. But, we don’t talk about the strategies he developed to get us there.
With President Obama leaving the White House, with our nation facing a fundamental ethical crisis about what we stand for with regard to the rights of women and minorities, I think it’s time to revisit that Dr. King. We need to remember that what we are called upon to do now is not to relinquish our moral future to the vague notion that righteousness prevails, and that if the rebellion is just, the empire will be overthrown. We must remind ourselves of all the times the rebels were disorganized and the tower fell.
At the Center for Social Innovation, I have the privilege of leading an initiative called SPARC (Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities), which is focused on helping communities redesign their systems to actively promote racial equity—particularly with regard to populations experiencing homelessness. When I think about the conversations I’ve been privileged to have with community leaders across the country, I am reminded of the fact that movements are built person by person. In our work helping to catalyze and assist with systems redesign, we remind people that all of our systems are, at their core, imaginary. The rule of law is an agreement. And, if we find a system to be unjust, we can, at any time, simply reimagine it. Read more about Homelessness, Racism and Social Justice.
In the spirit of Martin Luther King Day, I invite you to join us in the work of advancing justice. The time has come to acknowledge that in a time of crisis, if we are not actively advancing equity, then we are passively upholding inequity. Now is the time to fly the banner again. I will not stand idly by and let men of means and power stand in front of us, swearing to uphold the advancement of equity while they actively dismantle it.
Dr. King wrote: “So here we are moving toward the exit of the twentieth century…largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail-light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice."
I invite us all to remember that the worlds we imagine can always be made real. We have always been holier in our heads than in our deeds. But if we focus on it, the gap can get closer and closer every day.
Learn more about racial equity and homelessness by joining t3's online course starting February 14: