This article will come out the week we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the day of the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. As I write it, I am reeling from the way this year has started and the threats of violence leading up to the inauguration. At our current coronavirus death rate, even if no additional armed violence occurs, the U.S. will likely have lost an additional 24,500 people.
We witnessed one of our country’s major political parties refuse to stand up to the insurrection. Worse than that, we witnessed them participate in a refusal of a peaceful transfer of power by voting against certification of the election results. Their allegation of voter fraud is simply code for a belief that too many non-white people voted. The minimization of the violence at the Capitol through a comparison to Black Lives Matter protests is yet one more example of their belief that police — and all too often, even vigilantes — should be allowed to kill Black people without consequence.
We have too long and too varied a history of racial violence in our nation. But we also have a long and varied history of resistance to racial violence. Slavery did not end because of Abraham Lincoln. Even before our Constitution was signed, abolitionists were risking their lives in the fight to end slavery. To understand the depth of the struggle, I recommend “A Slave’s Cause” by Manisha Sinha.
It is a tragedy that when our nation had a moment to heal from slavery, we turned our back on reconstruction efforts. Instead, we exacerbated the unjust system of segregation and allowed a lynching campaign to terrorize our Black citizens.
Like slavery, there was a long battle against racial violence and segregation. There were incredible movements. Many were women-led, due to the intersection of violence against women and people of color. Another reading list must is “At the Dark End of the Street” by Danielle L. McGuire.
Some of our greatest stories, across racial groups and religions, involve fighting against subjugation and oppression. People have persevered even when systemic racism has felt so entrenched that it feels impossible to overcome.
As we celebrate King, we should remember that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice because of the movements and the people who raise their voice, protest, agitate and fight for freedom and justice. As we celebrate King, we should do it not with days of service, but with commitments to action to join the modern movements against state violence, mass incarceration and police brutality.
Jill Mullins is an intersectional feminist, attorney, activist and much more who lives in Bellingham.
Jill Mullins is an intersectional feminist, attorney, activist and much more. She has written for NW Lawyer, King County Bar News and LGBTQ+ outlets.
Read more of the Jan. 20-26, 2021 issue.