Over the course of the next week, leading up to the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 20th, we’ll be featuring some of the best writing from the Bread for the Journey blog that references or is inspired by Dr. King’s witness. We’ll feature one article each morning. Today’s reflection is from the Pax Christi USA Anti-Racism Team. It is the introduction to a Prayer-Study-Action (PSA) e-bulletin the team put together at the time of the dedication of the MLK Memorial to resource our movement for continuing the work of Dr. King. A link to the entire PSA is included. This post originally appeared August 26, 2011.
By the Pax Christi Anti-Racism Team
On August 28th, the new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial will open in Washington, D.C. Our nation honors Dr. King for his organizing work in communities across the country to dismantle all forms of racism from our nation’s institutions–including the Church. Dr. King is also honored for making the connection between racism, poverty and militarism and for his work in building a broad-based anti-racist, multi-cultural movement to create a “beloved community” that included the entire human family. He is recognized as the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
At times we might be tempted to think that the struggle Dr. King led for civil rights was marked by one success after another; that the narrow-minded bigots that opposed civil rights were always on the defensive and that victory was all but inevitable. But this was far from the truth. And as we reflect upon the darkness of our own times–the wars being waged at home and abroad against the poor and people of color–it is important to remind ourselves that on the journey to peace with justice, we will encounter many detours, wrong turns and dead ends. As Dr. King once said:
“I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will be still rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. … Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. … When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
Ten years ago in an audacious act of faith, Pax Christi USA committed itself to a 20-year initiative to transform ourselves into an anti-racist, multi-cultural Catholic movement for peace with justice. But now, with the assaults being waged against the most fundamental principles of our faith and the values of our nation from those on the far right, we might be tempted to put aside our work of transforming Pax Christi into an anti-racist, multi-cultural Catholic movement in order to concentrate on what many in our movement see as more “important” issues.
But our anti-racism work is not simply about the issue of racism. Our work is understanding how racism infects and sabotages our peacemaking efforts. Dismantling racism in Pax Christi is a priority because racism is a sinful disease that distorts our vision and analysis, weakens our Gospel integrity and authenticity and relegates us to the periphery of God’s dream of an all-inclusive discipleship community working together to heal a broken world.
This work is difficult and at times it may seem that for every step forward, we take two steps backward. It is much easier to focus on the sinfulness that exists in the world around us than it is to confront the darkness within. It is often easier for us to look beyond our borders–to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Sudan–than to look at the institutional and systemic racism within our borders that perpetuates social injustice and inflicts violence on many of our sisters and brothers of color. It is often easier to claim “I am not prejudiced” than to work, pray, and befriend people outside our cultural, economic, linguistic, or racial community. The good news is that God “makes a way out of no way and transforms dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.” The road may be long but Dr. King and many other holy women and men have gone before us to show us the way.