Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, commemorating the life and legacy of the heroic civil rights leader on what would have been his 93rd birthday. For us, MLK Day 2022 offers a moment of both hopeful reflection and an acknowledgement of our ongoing oppression.
Dr. King, who understood the necessity of systemic change, once said that:
“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. …and say, ‘This is not just.’”
This week, Maya Angelou became the first Black woman coined as a quarter, reminding us — with all due respect to our queen — that the US government continues to fall far short of actual progress, constantly relying on platitudes and symbolic gestures. It’s not lost on us that this act comes at a time when many Black people, Black women, and other communities of color are struggling to hold onto their cents and dollars. In a way, our government is flinging a coin at our people, ignoring its responsibility to ensure that none of us ever have to beg.
Economic Liberation Demands Economic Guarantees
Dr. King recognized that economic justice requires economic rights for all. From guaranteed income and jobs to guaranteed housing and health care, Liberation in a Generation echoes this sentiment and believes that a slate of guarantees must be foundational to economic liberation.
Day in and day out, our government’s failure to provide safety, security, and belonging to people of color jeopardizes not just our livelihoods but also our lives; it diminishes our political power and our democracy at large. Dr King knew this, saying “a bit of democracy died, a bit of our commitment to justice died” because of the utter failure by predominantly white people in power to move the dial on these fronts.
Dr. King had a dream. We have a dream. Our brothers, sisters, and nonbinary siblings have dreams too. And although progress is happening across the country — largely by us, for us — as a nation, we remain a long way off from realizing Dr. King’s vision of genuine equality, fully realized equity, and true liberation.
On this MLK Day and always, remember that Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander people and families continue to bear the brunt of the violence that our economic systems, political institutions, and policymakers enact upon us. And throughout this year, do not lose sight of the fact that the consequences of societal and geographic inequality are becoming more and more urgent.
That’s why, as Dr. King named and fought for, we need a slate of economic guarantees. So that we can guarantee our liberation. So that we can guarantee our dreams.