Martin Luther King visits Oklahoma City on July 30, 1960

Martin Luther King visits Oklahoma City on July 30, 1960

Today, we honor a national hero who continues to inspire Americans to challenge ourselves, be better and seek equality for all.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously spoke of a dream where people would be judged on their character rather than skin color. Yet, we look around our community and see divisions remaining.

Segregation may not be the law, but it is still here. It is in our schools, churches, neighborhoods, elected offices and corporate board rooms.

Significant racial gaps exist in student achievement, economic well-being, incarceration and in positions of power and influence.

True integration and equality have not been achieved.

In one year, Tulsa will mark the centennial of our race massacre. The failures in the aftermath resonate today. It is why race matters when examining policing, education, commerce and politics.

To ignore these realities is to ignore King’s words and life’s work.

From a jail cell in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, he wrote about injustice quoting philosophers from Socrates to T.S. Eliot. He pondered the role of power and sin. He pointed out unjust laws keeping people in subservience.

“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with.”

Most poignantly, King lamented the silence of faith leaders and inaction among moderates preferring order over justice.

“Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than complete misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

King’s dream lives on, but our labor to that end isn’t over. Even in dark days behind bars, King kept faith.

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not-too-distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”


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