“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”
Today, we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. We remember him as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement that ended Jim Crow laws and the segregated society that defined the South. But King had a longer view and a broader vision. He believed that we are on a constant journey toward a more just and equitable society.
Today in North Carolina, some people might think we are moving backwards. I don’t think so. We may have hit a bump but the regressive policies we’ve seen in the past few years will lead to a backlash that ultimately continues our progress.
Fifty-years ago, we were a country in the midst of social upheaval and radical cultural change. At the time, it seemed to be moving too slow for some and far too fast for others. But the excesses and reaction of the ‘60s eventually brought unprecedented opportunities for African-Americans, broke down barriers for women and set the stage for the gay rights movement.
Today, in the wake of the Great Recession, we’re facing a similar upheaval. Society is recognizing the rights of gay Americans to live as the rest of the country and we’re slowly realizing the harmful effects of income inequality on our economy and our families. The fight for change, though, has just begun.
It will likely take years, even decades, to clearly understand the winners and losers of the current battle. It always does. In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education ended segregation in public schools across the nation. In 1969, fifteen years after Brown and six years after Alabama Governor George Wallace declared “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” my first grade class was the first integrated class in the history of Anson County schools. Some people, on both sides of the debate, thought that day would never come.
We’re already seeing change. Courts are rejecting bans on marriage equality in states across the nation. Last week, a judge threw out North Carolina’s draconian ultra-sound law. And in Pennsylvania, another judge ruled that state’s voter ID law unconstitutional. And finally, a Pope who talks about the poor and condemns the worship of money is becoming symbol of economic justice.
King understood that the struggle for justice is a journey that has no end. He saw plenty of setbacks but realized that, ultimately, we are always moving forward. So don’t be discouraged. Just keep up the fight.