Commentary

As we begin the weekend-long celebrations, observations and reflections on the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I find myself reflecting on some of his most powerful thoughts on justice and peace.

How can it be that Dr. King’s words remain relevant today? When he said we “must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation,” it rings true — still — here in Louisville. We remain the fourth most-segregated city in the United States.

When Dr. King said “we must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry,” it rings true today. People who are Muslim, or follow the religion of Islam, are being stereotyped and attacked.

People in Louisville, statewide and across our country are heeding Dr. King’s words. They’re refusing to adjust themselves to discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other way in which we exist in this world.

Young leaders are using their collective power to demand change. Here, they’re standing up to corporations and Metro government in the fight against environmental racism. They’re challenging racist actions by their own university president. They’re continuing to fight for the restoration of voting rights for Kentuckians who have served their debt to society.

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Across our country, young leaders are battling all forms of violence, including economic violence, police violence, and violence against transgender men and women.

These same young people are building the beloved community of which Dr. King spoke.

Last year, I accepted an invitation to speak at a program for Central High School students. I asked the auditorium full of scholars if any of them believed that racism is real. Almost every hand went up. It reminded me why many young people truly do believe that, in the words of Assata Shakur, they have nothing to lose but their chains.

We could make a difference in so many people’s lives if we addressed the emotional, environmental, financial, mental, physical and spiritual impacts of historic and persistent racial discrimination.

Today, we can choose to act, to be and to do differently. We must remain vigilant because hatred is deeply imbedded in Louisville, in Kentucky, and across our country.

When we see immigrants and refugees treated as less than human. When we see elected officials refusing to respect people’s right to marry. When we see havens of capitalism, like Fourth Street Live, continue to racially profile our neighbors.

Unless we are willing to speak up and stand up against racism, nothing will change.

Together, we can conquer “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism” of which Dr. King spoke. Together, we can build the beloved community.

Attica Scott previously served on the Louisville Metro Council representing District 1. You can follow her on twitter at @atticascott.

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(Photo of King speaking at University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law)