Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Urgency of Opposing Inequality

“I must confess I am not afraid of the word ‘tension.’ I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”

These are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., excerpted from his Letter from Birmingham Jail and quoted at the beginning of every one of our bi-weekly gatherings here at The Marin Foundation. It’s actually where we get the name, “Living in the Tension.”

I like to think that I know all about tension. Most days I’m engaged in heavy conversation about faith and sexuality. My colleagues and I here at The Marin Foundation often joke about what we tell strangers asking what we do for a living when we’re off the clock and feeling particularly weary. “I work for a small nonprofit in Chicago,” we’ll say.

This weekend I was reminded of how Dr. King, our model for peaceful, constructive engagement, faced enormous tension and opposition with an even greater amount of energy and conviction. For those of you who have not yet seen the film Selma, go. I sat in awe and often with tears watching the depiction this great preacher from Atlanta opposing racial inequality with what the character called “a massive demonstration of our moral certainty.” Here’s a clip to give you a sense of the weight of this film:

There’s an urgency to the call for justice in this scene. There’s an urgency in Dr. King’s letter from Birmingham Jail, addressed to mostly white, moderate clergymen who had urged him to tone down his efforts. To wait. As he writes,

For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

I’m inspired by Dr. King’s tenacity and impatience in the face of complacency. We need that spirit of urgency today, whether it’s securing equal treatment for the black community, the LGBTQ community, or any other marginalized group.

 

Note: This post originally appeared at Love is an Orientation here.