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Perspective: Dr. King's legacy is about more than peace

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Suzy Brooks
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Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Hated at the time of his death in 1968, he is now our Avatar of Peace. However, that's a reduction of his mission and ideas -- and common practice.

I've seen repeated instances of people using overly condensed memes of King’s ideas, disregarding context. From pundits on cable news shows to angry parents at school board meetings, objecting diversity and inclusion efforts, Dr. King's words are employed like blunt instruments rather than building blocks.

To claim that King would not have supported Black Lives Matter is ludicrous. To claim that King would not embrace critical race theory is ludicrous. To claim that King would not have supported teaching children about anti-racism is ludicrous.

Each of these are attempts to solve the exact same problems King worked against: Segregation, voter suppression, housing discrimination, economic injustice. King's work was about justice and service not simply peace. Peace cannot be attained without justice and justice cannot happen without each of us doing our part to serve the needs of the community.

In “Letter from Birmingham Jail," he pointed out that the most significant problem to solve in all forms of oppression is those who are “more devoted to order than justice, who prefer a negative peace, which is absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice.” He also declared in 1956 that, “We must rise above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns with a broader concern for all humanity.”

So to commemorate him this holiday, take a moment to read a few of his speeches and reflect on whether or not we are really living up to peace, and justice, and service.

I'm Joseph Flynn, and that's my perspective.

Joseph Flynn is an associate professor of curriculum and instruction and Associate Director for Academic Affairs for the Center for Black Studies at Northern Illinois University.