On a day when politicians and public figures tend to glorify Dr. King and his message while whitewashing his more radical ideas — let’s never forget that two-thirds of Americans had an unfavorable view of him in the year before he died — I always try to go back to his actual words, both to remind myself of what he was fighting for, and to remember how far we still have to go.
In November 2016, I found particular solace in the parallelism of his speech delivered in 1967, nine months before his assassination, entitled, “Where Do We Go From Here?” The whole speech is worth revisiting, but this call to action especially moves me to this day:
Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds.
Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice.
Let us be dissatisfied until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.
King was a radical for economic security, not just a colorblind dreamer as he’s often painted. He saw issues of economic and racial justice as interrelated.
And on a day set aside to honor him, recommitting myself to elevating the voices of marginalized people, continual learning about what it means to be an ally, advocating for just policy, and when need be, using my body in protest of unjust policy.
I’m recommitting to being dissatisfied.