Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On Friday, the first undemocratically elected president will be inaugurated. That inauguration will unleash an administration that is intend on rolling back decades of progress towards justice, at least attempting to undo what King and many others died for.
I have trouble understanding how people can hate so much that they cannot bear seeing equality for people who have been treated like cattle in the past. What twisting of their minds is necessary for them to dehumanize to such an extend that they are determined to take away rights and lives.
I watched a documentary on King last night. It increased my respect for him tremendously. In the face of brutal violence, he urged people to continue to fight with nonviolence. He called it militant nonviolence – they were not going to back down because they knew justice is on their side. In his letter from the Birmingham jail, he explains his concept of justice:
An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.
This is such a simple, straight-forward explanation! Unlike his first explanation, it does not even require an appeal to a god. The only premise it relies on is the equality of all human beings. King continues to use voting rights restriction as an example: African-American voters are made to jump through hoops no white voters have to go through. This is unjust.
I believe this definition of justice can also be expanded to granting rights. Giving one group, say members of Congress, access to health care, for example, and then turning around to deny that access to others is unjust because the members of Congress give themselves the access while denying it to others who do not have the same power.
More importantly, King’s words point out why the next president of the U.S. has been elected unjustly. His election was marked by numerous undemocratic tactics, including systematic voter suppression through laws that could be enacted because the U.S. Supreme Court destroyed part of Martin Luther King’s legacy as it gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
Again, I do not understand how people can bend over backwards to roll back these gains. I do not understand how it can be so threatening to them to see people who aren’t white men succeed. Something is deeply troubling about a society, about a culture, that enables such unjust forces.