“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
While King was speaking explicitly about social inequality taking place in the United States at that time, his statement holds significance worldwide. The wisdom he presents in his Letter From A Birmingham Jail is undeniable, and still as a society we tend to ignore the message. We can no longer sit idly by and watch the suffering of others simply because the discussion of injustice is somewhat uncomfortable.
Particularly in this day and age, with social media being pervasive around the globe, it is important to remember that we are all brothers and sisters in this venture we call life. We are all human beings with desires and dreams and needs. If we watch the suffering of people in another part of the world on our laptops and cell phones, without consciously responding with compassion, we become desensitized to the inequality and discrimination affecting those people. We lose our ability to empathize and show kindness to marginalized individuals all over the earth. It matters not if injustice is happening in your own back yard or across the ocean. Each and every person must fight bias when they see it or else it becomes accepted practice.
In some parts of the world, there are still people being abused because of the color of their skin – something they have absolutely no control over. In other places, women are routinely mutilated and married off as child brides. They are forced to hide their bodies and are punished if they are raped. These groups of people have no voice. No right to determine their own destinies. This type of treatment is abhorrent and unacceptable.
Yet, it happens every day.
Why is this still happening? Because we allow it to happen. Let that sink in. We allow it by looking the other way because it is not directly affecting our lives. Dr. King mentions in his letter that he is more disturbed by the people refusing to stand up for social change than by those who fought to remain as persecutors.
We cannot be seen as “outside agitators” nor can we afford to view others in that manner. We are all citizens on this great planet and as such have an obligation to treat others with dignity and respect. No one deserves to be abused simply because someone has the power and ability to abuse them.
Dr. King also stated that “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
So, when is the right time to fight back? How do the oppressed fight back?
Dr. King believed in taking a non-violent approach to social dissention. He believed that violence leads to more violence and history upholds that assertion as truth. So, how do we make the changes that lead to freedom? The answer is to fight prejudice any way that we can anytime that we can. Changes won’t happen overnight, but if you let your voice be heard, and support those that are in no position to help themselves, eventually those in power will take notice.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This idea has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. Fighting discrimination is a battle that will never end. That is why it is so important that we all do our part to combat oppressors everyway possible. Each of us were born with basic, unalienable rights. It’s time we ensure that our neighbor can prosper from those rights as well.