- Hope on Union
Only When It Is Dark Enough, Can You See the Stars
This is a phrase from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last speech at Mason Temple in Memphis on April 3, 1968. The speech, better known as "I've Been to the Mountaintop," was at a rally supporting the striking sanitation workers. They were fighting for salary increases, improved benefits, and better working conditions. The very next day, he was assassinated.
When the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike began, their protest included an economic boycott of white businesses, including Coca-Cola and Wonder Bread. They attacked the white multi-national corporations at the foundation of U.S greedy, racist economics.
In the speech, he also talked about "redistributing" pain, the pain of hunger, poverty, and economic injustices experienced by the African American community resulting from the systemic racism of Jim Crow south and intentional blindness towards the structural racism of the northern white moderates. I believe his call for "redistribution of wealth" led to his murder. Whites were willing to tolerate some changes, but it was too much when he messed with their money.
The recent political climate is bleak as it has been in decades as hate rules the day and stupidity runs the politics. There is no governance, and public service is an alien concept in Washington. The last time such distrust in politics was in the late 1960s during the U.S. racist colonial war protests and Richard Nixon's presidency.
Today, as long as the 401K retirement portfolios are growing, injustices are given only lip service. We complain, but we support the corrupt economics that benefits only the 1%; we continue to order things on Amazon and support the racist, evil multi-national corporations that profit from modern-day slavery. It appears we have been so brainwashed to accept the "trickle-down" of benefits we are content with minimum wage. It seems that the world is getting darker every day.
I have been actively involved in social justice work for more than 40 years, and today I am more hopeful about the future than I have been in my life. An entire generation is getting involved in the fight to make the world a better place. They are questioning the foundational values of politics, economics, and social structures. The younger generation grew up learning about the end of Apartheid, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the work of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. For the first time in my life, I have seen conversations about reparations taken seriously, and some municipalities are implementing versions of it.
Reparations are one of those issues we must address to undo the economic injustices of over 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow, and redlining. The "Generational Wealth" is the foundation of Western Europe, including the U.S., but it was denied to those not of Western European origin. As a faith community committed to justice, we must be actively engaged in the work of redistribution of wealth.
This is going to be challenging work, and we will not see many wins in our lifetime. However, we must not become discouraged in doing what is right but find ways to encourage each other. Yes, the current world is a night, but we can see stars. We will celebrate small victories and make an impact in our small part of the world.