Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day in the United States. It is a holiday that commemorates Dr. King’s life and work. He led a movement for racial justice and equality and embraced nonviolent action as a powerful revolutionary force for social change. He employed Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence as the means to confront racist laws and discrimination in America. His work made a significant contribution to President Lyndon Johnson signing into law the historic Civil Rights Act, and he was the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Dr. King’s legacy continues to offer inspiration to live in accordance with the values of love, tolerance, and cooperation. There is still much more to be done to create a society in which human rights are equal independent of skin color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identification, economic status, and religious affiliation.
With the current state of affairs, it would be easy to get discouraged at the lack of progress towards equality and tolerance.
With the U.S. government shut down because the president wants $5.7 billion for an unnecessary border wall to address a problem that does not exist. As indicated by the Washington Post article Two Charts Demolish the Notion that Immigrants Here Illegally Commit More Crime. The article cites two studies that offer some of the strongest evidence so far that immigration, legal or otherwise, does not lead to rising crime. A quote I have seen floating around on social media sums it up nicely: “If you are going to use a handful of crimes by undocumented immigrants as a reason why we need an idiotic wall then you better as hell use the 325+ mass shootings in America last year as a reason why we need gun control. One is an actual problem, the other is manufactured.”
A wall is also not going to address the real humanitarian concerns that have people coming to the border seeking asylum, safety, and a better life. Nor is it going to magically solve the heroin epidemic ravaging parts of this nation as the president’s address suggested last week. If the government really wants to look toward a solution for America’s drug problem, they could learn from the transformation Portugal has experienced through decriminalizing the possession and consumption of illicit substances and providing comprehensive harm reduction support for those struggling with addiction. Portugal was able to stabilize its opioid crisis and have drug-related death, incarceration and infection rates plummeted. Portugal’s drug mortality rate is the lowest in Western Europe — one-tenth the rate of Britain or Denmark — and about one-fiftieth of the U.S. The results aren’t perfect, but the Portuguese have made tremendous headway through treating addiction as a disease and not a crime.
The wall is also a being used as a vehicle to spread lies and to stir up fear, racism, and xenophobia in the American public. In addition to the government being held hostage over the wall, we have an elected representative making the racist comment, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”, and a president who makes frequent offensive and insensitive remarks about women, migrants, black people, Native Americans, and other minorities.
And today I am reading about non-Native youth wearing #MAGA hats taunting and disrespecting Native elder Nathan Phillips, Vietnam Veteran and former director of the Native Youth Alliance while he was singing the AIM Song in Washington, DC during the Indigenous Peoples March.
These are just a few examples of intolerance in the current climate of the U.S. It is clear there is a long way for America to go to actualize the greatness of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, and I am still hopeful.
Someone asked me recently how an understanding that our experience is created internally might be helpful in the face of the institutionalized racism. It seemed they felt it was not relevant in the face of inequality. For me, it is the most important direction to look in because we live in a world that is the by-product of our thoughts and beliefs. Therefore, it is going to be through shifts in our understanding that we will individually and collectively create change and live into the full potential of love, peace, and harmony available to us.
Understanding how the mind works wakes people up to their innate potential. This is true for every human being independent of the package we come in and the preferences we have. Seeing this allows us all to experience more deeply the wisdom that lies beyond our habitual and conditioned thoughts. It allows us to open our minds and see beyond our current limitations. It is going to be from that source that solutions arise.
It feels more important than ever to point in the direction of the human potential that is inside of each one of us. The world is a reflection of our thoughts and our thoughts can change.
People like Daryl Davis who convinced 200 Klan members to give up their robes, and journalist and filmmaker Deeyah Khan whose has two documentary films on Netflix White Right: Meeting the Enemy and Jihad: A Story of the Others where she engages with extremists human to human and seeks to understand, are examples of this. As Khan states, “it’s much more difficult to hate up close and personal.”
Martin Luther King Jr. pointed the way forward to heal the division and anger that are present on both sides of the political divide in this country. Judgment and animosity only serve to increase suffering and do not offer solutions on how to move forward. Instead, as Martin Luther King, Jr., clearly expressed:
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
We can raise our voices for what we believe and stand for the principles of justice and love internally and externally. I am grateful for the blessing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership, and his demonstration of how change is possible even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. We can be the change we want to see in the world. It starts within and it starts with us.
**This post is a revised and edited version of a post originally published 1/16/17.
Rohini Ross is passionate about helping people wake up to their full potential. She is a transformative coach, leadership consultant, a regular blogger for Thrive Global, and author of the short-read Marriage (The Soul-Centered Series Book 1) available on Amazon. You can get her free ebook Relationships here. Rohini currently has an international coaching and consulting practice based in Los Angeles helping individuals, couples, and professionals embrace all of who they are so they can experience greater levels of well-being, resiliency, and success. She is also the founder of The Soul-Centered Series: Psychology, Spirituality, and the Teachings of Sydney Banks. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and watch her Vlogs with her husband. To learn more about her work go to her website, rohiniross.com.