Going to Birmingham, or Staying in Atlanta

With the events of the past few days, there seems to be another wave of M.L. King quotes making their rounds on the internet, devoid of context. Of all the ones shared, my mind latched on to the following:

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here…Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

The more I read and re-read this quote, I had to ask, “Am I going to Birmingham, or am I going to stay in Atlanta?” The decision is not simply choosing between my comfort or discomfort; the decision is choosing between creating a more just world or turning a blind eye to injustice because it feels far from home.

King understood that going to Birmingham would cause him discomfort. As a matter of fact, it very well could have cost him his life. Let us not forget that four little girls had life snatched from their tiny, innocent bodies in what should be one of the most sacred spaces in our society. But nothing is sacred to hate--no day too holy, no ground too righteous.

Moreover, as an educator, I have to ask am I going to allow my students to go to Birmingham or am I going to say we live Atlanta--don't worry about Birmingham? If you ever feel that injustice is far away, you need only to stand in the doorway of the school as Birmingham, Charlotte, Ferguson, Hempstead, Cleveland, and countless others walk by wearing backpacks and barrettes.

So, are you going to Birmingham, or are you going to stay in Atlanta?


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