On Monday we will commemorate what would have been the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 92nd birthday. The values and ideals Dr. King fought for reverberate just as strongly today as they did 50 years ago—if not more so, given the continued grip of white supremacy on institutions of power and influence in the United States.
By some measures, Dr. King’s vision is closer than ever before. The special senate election in Georgia earlier this month (only ten days ago!) saw a tremendous increase in voter turnout. This turnout itself was galvanized by the legacy of Dr. King’s work for voting rights, as was one of its winners, Reverend Rafael Warnock. Rev. Warnock is not only a pastor of Dr. King’s church, Ebenezer Baptist, but he is the first Black man elected to the Senate in any state that once belonged to the Confederacy. Stacey Abrams also triumphed in the face of her 2018 gubernatorial loss: she is widely credited with driving the high turnout in Georgia for both the special election and November’s presidential election. These are victories worth celebrating.
Last week, however, we witnessed violent insurgents in the U.S. Capitol determined to interrupt and invalidate the outcome of a fair and free election. They revealed, in stark relief, the virulent racism and anti-Semitism that have long been excused as fringe, one-off instances that do not represent “the America we know.”
We must not only draw a contrast between the police repression of peaceful protest this summer and the seeming ease with which a violent, frothing mob desecrated the Capitol, but also the difference between this summer’s unrest and the events of January 6. Those who fight to expand democracy and dismantle systemic racism are not the same as those who seek to contract it. We cannot evaluate their actions with the same lens. I hope that by bringing their reprehensible behavior into the light, we will come closer to defeating those who reject the ideals of justice and self-determination that Dr. King embodied and championed.
As Dr. King stated, “We have difficulties ahead, but I haven’t despaired. I still have faith in the future.” Even in times as uncertain as these, I see your faith in the future as you work diligently on behalf of our clients and our communities. I see our faith in the young people we care for at JCCA. Your tireless work and the boundless resilience of our children and families inspire me to continue through these challenging times, optimistic about the future. May Reverend Doctor King’s words inspire us all, especially as we celebrate his birth.
With gratitude and strength,
Ronald E. Richter