As thousands of people descended upon Selma, Alabama this past weekend to honor and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Selma to Montgomery marches, I decided that visiting the Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. monument in Washington DC would be my way of marking this important moment in American history. Walking along the wall of quotes with a beautiful sunset in the background, I stopped to read one of my favorites:
We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
While this quote is powerful on its own, listening to President Obama’s speech in Selma this past weekend amplified its meaning. Speaking about the place of Selma in the narrative of the United States, President Obama stated clearly that, “fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished”, acknowledging that Selma was not a culmination or stopping place for the Civil Rights Movement or for our nation.
Obviously, and unfortunately, racism did not end with the Civil Rights Movement. As the video from the SAE fraternity from the University of Oklahoma demonstrates, people are still racist. As the statistics concerning mass incarceration, the educational achievement gap, and poverty rates demonstrate, systemic racism still exists. And while our work is not close to being done, President Obama’s speech in Selma also reminded us that we cannot ignore the enormous amount of progress that has been made throughout our history. From LGBTQ marriage equality to religious tolerance, racial acceptance to gender equality, we have grown and improved since the founding of our nation.
In other words, the arc of the moral universe is indeed bending toward justice…but how long will it take?
While I cannot be sure, I don’t believe that even Dr. King knew the answer to this. However, it is clear that he would have wanted us to keep moving toward the “more perfect union” that our nation and our world values and needs.
While we have not achieved all that we believe in and strive for, we cannot and must not give up in our struggle for what is right. The arc of the moral universe is bending toward justice — how will you help complete its path?
Originally published at evanltraylor.wordpress.com on March 12, 2015.