“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As I reflected on the past year since we celebrated Martin Luther King Day 2020, these words stood out to me. A lot has happened since January 2020—so much that I do not need nor want to recap.
As the clock struck midnight to end 2020 and begin 2021, we believed that this year would be better, and for all the bad that happened the previous year, we could not fathom anything else that could go wrong. Then January 6 happened. Domestic terrorists invaded the United States Capitol building, then made their way to the Senate floor, where they proceeded to take selfies—even in the seat where the vice president sits.
However, that was not the worse part. The worse part was the words from the President of the United States. For the last four years—nearly every day—he has done or tweeted something that you would never expect to hear from the leader of the most powerful country in the world. The words he had spoken mere hours before the invasion of the Capitol is what empowered those terrorists to do what they did.
King’s quote about us being in the same boat is not the typical rally cry, but these words should be a wake-up call. These words are a reality check for many in this country who still feel in 2021 that one race is better than another. Except for the Native Americans, the history of white people and Black people in this country started on a ship. For white people, it was by choice as they were looking for new land; for Black people, it was forced to build this new land the white colonizers had stolen from Indigenous people. Even with that awful history, some 400+ plus years later, we still do not have to live that ugly reality. We are all here together, and it is about time we all get along together.
Dr. King died in 1968. This April, it will be 53 years ago when King sacrificed his life fighting for the poor, marginalized people, and those this country had left behind. He died doing that—and we spend every January celebrating his life and the remaining eleven months tearing each other apart. We are kicking each other off the same boat—the boat we are on together.
For years we have honored the life of Dr. King as we should, but let’s focus this year on honoring his legacy. The legacy of Dr. King tells us in education that we must teach our children to think intensively and think critically. While we will spend Monday, January 18, 2021, watching documentaries of Dr. King, reading his work, and participating in programs, I encourage us to honor King by keeping our boat moving forward.
January 6 should remind us what Dr. King’s stood for. He stood for nonviolent activism in hopes of ending racial injustice. With this reminder, I encourage you to join me in thinking about not only considering how are we are different, but also considering how many things we have in common. We feel love when we are happy; we feel pain when we are sad. We all smile, and we all bleed. We are in the same boat now, so there is so much that we can celebrate that unites us instead of fighting over the little things that divide us.