Reflections on Martin Luther King Day

In the fall of 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, ending decades of division and paving the way for the reunification of Germany a couple years later. Over the next several years, as the two Germanies were knitted back together economically and politically, many observers, east and west, could not help noticing that an important division still remained, what they called die Mauer im Kopf – “the wall in our heads,” a sense of mistrust and mutual suspicion, an “us-and-them” mentality that lingered on long after the two nations were supposedly reunited.

Decades after Brown v. Board of Education and the ensuing Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts of the 1960’s, America continues to make progress in the hard work of bringing full equality to citizens of all races. Despite this progress, the “walls in our heads” remain to some extent, and there still is a great deal of work we all have to do to build a society that is more just and inclusive, where racial disparities in health care, education, and the criminal justice system will be something for the history books, instead of ongoing challenges.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King famously dreamed of a day when his children – indeed all children – would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Let us take the time today to rededicate ourselves to that noble dream, and commit ourselves to taking down the remaining walls that divide us along racial lines – the walls in society, and the walls in our heads. Let us recall the words of the great Mahatma Gandhi, whose vision of nonviolent social transformation inspired Dr. King’s own struggles in the United States: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won.”

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