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on speaking out: an MLK Day reflection

speak out against prejudice and hatred woman on bridge

I don't speak out because I don't know if my voice is strong enough, or right enough, to tackle the rage, ignorance, and misunderstanding.

I don't speak out because hate so often feels undefeatable, snaking its way like smoke around my attempts at reconciliation until the lines between truth and falsehood are obstructed.

I don't speak out because, when I do, my attempts at grace and understanding aren't reciprocated. 

I don't speak out because my privilege falsely tells me this isn't my problem, too. 

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It's an election year, a time of frenetic energy and misleading soundbites. The campaign money is flowing and the incessant, unthinking word vomit is flowing, too (sorry for that disgusting visual). Politicians try to encapsulate complicated issues into digestible phrases for an American public largely unwilling to engage with a shades-of-gray reality.

But we have pledged to be different. We want to live ethical, thoughtful, conscious lives. We want to do right by people and correct our mistakes. And that means it's time to speak out.

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Speak out against black-and-white thinking that boils people and issues down to caricatures.

Speak out against accusations that individuals, due to their race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or geographic origin, must be bad or lazy or unfit, or unwelcome here.

Speak out against systemic prejudice that runs so deep we don't always see it. 

Speak out against elitism. 

Speak out against the lie of the American Dream. 

Speak out against un-tethered Capitalism that always privileges profit over people. 

Speak out against the urge to blame someone else for your guilt. 


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Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned...

- Adapted from the Prayer of St. Francis

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Speak out, because you might be able to reach someone no one else can.

Speak out, because your community needs a witness.

Speak out, because your voice is a salve.

Speak out, because you might be the only one who does.


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We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

- Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter From Birmingham Jail


Other MLK Day posts from the Ethical Writers Co.

3 comments

  1. Lovely as always, Leah. Here's to speaking out together.

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  2. Beautiful sentiments, Leah! Thank you for your willingness to speak out; you encouraged me to post today as well.

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