Get Out of the Way: A Perspective on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

nicole lashombNicole Lashomb, Editor-in-Chief of The Rainbow Times
Photo. TRT Archives

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Nicole Lashomb, Editor-in-Chief of The Rainbow Times Photo. TRT Archives

Nicole Lashomb, Editor-in-Chief of The Rainbow Times
Photo. TRT Archives

By: Nicole Lashomb*/Editor-in-Chief—

On Jan. 18, we honor Martin Luther King Jr. by celebrating his life and achievements as an iconic American civil rights leader. Most well known for his campaigns to end racial segregation on the way to peacefully paving the way to racial equality, I can’t help but wonder how far we’ve really come.

“As I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’” King said in his famous speech at the nation’s capital.

Despite the gains we’ve made as a country, we have many miles to trek ahead before it is recognized and respected that all of us are indeed created equal. [pullquote]As a white woman, I will never know what it is to be judged by the color of my skin. I will never know what it is to not be afforded an equal opportunity because the system is rigged against me. …I will never know what it is to be targeted as a suspect by certain law enforcement just because I am being profiled.[/pullquote]

As a white woman, I will never know what it is to be judged by the color of my skin. I will never know what it is to not be afforded an equal opportunity because the system is rigged against me. I will never know what the penetrating stare of hate or suspicion feels like when cold eyes are upon me. I will never know what it is to be targeted as a suspect by certain law enforcement just because I am being profiled. I will never know what it is to live without my white privilege.

However, what I do know is that I have an obligation to stand up for truth and justice even in the face of adversity. I know that if I don’t stand up and raise my voice in opposition to racism, I am just as guilty as the one who blatantly commits the heinous acts of discrimination. I know I have a responsibility to recognize my white privilege and to listen to the experiences of others that differ from mine. I know it is not up to me to take the lead in the struggle for freedom but rather stand in solidarity and action in the fight for equal treatment and rights under the law.

From my privilege and white experience, I also know that many white folks are oblivious to issues of race, often stating that they are “colorblind” or don’t see differences between us. However, those very sentiments, despite possible “good intentions” behind them negate the black experience by not even acknowledging it exists. I learned that lesson along the way. [pullquote]On social media, I notice how other white people don’t care to speak up or even “like” stories that have to do with black experiences or #BlackLivesMatter. But, if the shared post is about movies, sports, or anything trivial for that matter, tons of likes and comments ensue.[/pullquote]

On social media, I notice how other white people don’t care to speak up or even “like” stories that have to do with black experiences or #BlackLivesMatter. But, if the shared post is about movies, sports, or anything trivial for that matter, tons of likes and comments ensue. Why is that? Why can’t other counterparts learn, ask questions and show that they’ve done so? What is holding you back? Lack of participation, a lack of empathy or care for each other is part of the problem.

Information is power. Knowledge leads to change and demands that we do better today than yesterday. White people like me have a responsibility to educate themselves/ourselves—through reading, listening, and participating. We can’t just call ourselves “allies” and leave it at that.

King’s dream is still a work in progress. To help escape the shackles of this country’s tragic past—and present—we have to own our contribution to it and move over to get out of the way. It’s long overdue.

*Nicole Lashomb is the Editor-in-Chief of The Rainbow Times. She holds an MBA from Marylhurst University and a BM from the Crane School of Music in SUNY Potsdam. Reach her at editor@therainbowtimesmass.com.