What does it mean to choose love?

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My timeline this morning is full of quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And it should be. I’m encouraged by this as this year has far more participation–at least online–in my circles than previously. Many of my local friends are braving the cold today to march in one of the several marches in local cities. (I’m under the weather and bummed to not be able to join in).

I would like to encourage us all to pause today and choose to go deeper. As one friend reminded us, Black Lives Matter has a higher approval rating right now, than Dr. King did when he died. A dead Dr. King is a safe person for the white moderate–that King himself spoke reprovingly of–to lionize. So many of us are sharing his quote about choosing love because hate is too great a burden to bear.

And choosing love is a powerful thing to do, but it is not a fluffy, feel-good sentiment. What does it mean to choose love from the standpoint of the oppressed? Too many of us sharing that today as our token of tribute to Dr. King will never know what it feels like to stand where he stood, or to stand where our siblings who are black, brown, indiginous, people of color are standing still.

Dr. King choosing love over hate was powerful and sacrificial. If our love is not likewise, then it does us no good to share that quote. We cannot use this day to try to pacify feelings of guilt by throwing up a token that we are comfortable with. Love is not comfortable. Love is not easy. Love always seeks the betterment of the person or people being loved.

And we as Americans of white, European descent cannot say we love our siblings of other descents and origins if we are not seeking their total well-being in all spheres of life. To love is to put the needs of the loved one above our own needs, but all too often we don’t even seek to bring the needs of those who don’t look like us up to the same level of importance as our own.

How long will we ask our siblings to wait for equality? How long will we be content to benefit from the systems of white supremacy that have been in place from the foundations of the nation without questioning them?

I’m not asking us to feel some sort of ancestral guilt for people’s actions that we did not know or see. I’m asking us to take responsibility for the systems of oppression that are currently in action. I’m asking us to realize that white people are the system and that all it takes is the inaction of the many to promote the active supremacy goals of the few. We must tear these systems down in order to promote the mutual thriving of every resident of this nation. None of us are free until all of us are free. None of us have true justice until all of us have true justice. And a love that is comfortable and isn’t calling us deeper isn’t really love.

“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.”–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Letter from a Birmingham Jail

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