The resurgence of “Black Lives Matter” has gripped my psyche like nothing I’ve experienced before. I am aghast at how some prominent leaders in our society have blatantly disrespected the very core principles of diversity and inclusion. Racial flare-ups are common in the US but the recent intensity and breadth of response from common citizens around the world seem different this time. I am tempted to write a long opinion but somehow managed to restrain myself. The world has gone through so much of emotional and mental roller coaster in the past six months and I would rather add a silver lining than fuel the fire. Therefore, I have chosen to reflect on what history has taught us instead. I have carefully selected the speech delivered by Martin Luther King, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on December 11, 1964, as it reflects the paradigm from which I am rooted.
Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.
Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
The tortuous road which has led from Montgomery to Oslo is a road over which millions of Negroes are travelling to find a new sense of dignity. It will, I am convinced, be widened into a superhighway of justice.
I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the “oughtness” that forever confronts him.
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.
History tells us that injustice began with the original sin of slavery but, injustice has endured because racism and discrimination have, too. Let’s be realistic. Some forms of discrimination or racism, regardless of race, cannot be avoided, deliberately or otherwise. What makes it really worrisome is if it becomes systemic and totally undermines the basic human virtues of trust and respect. If that happens, then the very fabric of human ecology crumbles.
Almost half a decade after MLK Jr.’s passing, his aspiration still lives on. Still far too many have been left out and struggling to overcome racism and discrimination. The Economist (June 13th 2020) mentioned that a large and growing literature links the still-yawing racial gaps in income, employment and wealth to the segregated communities, racial violence and unequal investment that have been a feature of American society for so long. Black and marginalized communities still face differential treatment from the police and unequal access to high quality public goods like education and even environmental quality. I would like to believe that the situation may not be as blatant here in our very own Calgary, although one could say that there are pockets of similar circumstances happening around us. It is not just police behavior that needs to change in order to see progress. Each and everyone of us needs to be part of that change. I cannot allow myself to be a silent spectator. “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” Thank you, John Lewis for this legacy. Translated in Tagalog: “Kung hindi tayo, sino pa? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?” A slogan that has long been imprinted in my mind since I was 16 as I entered the University of the Philippines, but still resonates strongly with me. This has prompted me to proactively seek a forum to contribute my thoughts and work collaboratively with organizations who are advocating for this change.
I would like to believe that I live in a community that embraces diversity in whatever shape or form. So, it is natural for me to be sensitive to various cultures and beliefs. My professional life has taught me very strongly that tolerance is not only an esteemed virtue but a necessity if we genuinely wish for this world to be a better place to live in. We have done tremendous strides as humanity. Even USA Inc has at last become openly serious about tackling racism. CEOs of the biggest US companies have sent letters to Congress advocating changes to how policing is done, made or in the process of changing corporate policies to make racial justice “intentional and specific.” However, the cycle of progression and regression repeats over and over again therefore, in my opinion the intentionality and specificity of our efforts must be consistent at all fronts – social, economic, political, financial, and even spiritual – if we truly want to see a genuine reform.
Excerpts from the speech was taken from Bartlett, J. 1980. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Toronto, CA: Little, Brown and Company.