To All Of Us, Dr. King's Words Remain an Urgent Call To Action

By Frances Padilla

It is an indisputable fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to the fight for justice. He believed in the power of people to affect change.

In the years since Dr. King’s life, our society has become more atomized and divided than ever. We have so many resources that should foster connection, and yet the privileged remain disconnected from the marginalized. In Connecticut, we are still one of the most segregated states in the country.

How do we come out on the other side of this? What would Dr. King prescribe for this moment?

We can’t speak for Dr. King. He was too much of a visionary- his experience was too full of pain for others to speak for him. What we can do is remember what he did say and apply it to this moment.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

There is nothing like a highly contagious virus to remind us that we need to take care of our entire communities. In American culture, the narrative of personal responsibility is used to justify poverty, sickness, and death.

We forget that what works for the most marginalized will work for all of us. It is in our best interest that everybody is healthy, safe and thriving.

This past year had no shortage of pain, and it continues into 2021. The way forward is acting on the reality that there will never be peace in our world until there is justice for everybody. We are in this together.

It is impossible to ignore injustice. We are being called to change the systems that are built on and perpetuate it. The people must have hope that a more just future is possible, and we must demand empathy and courage from our leaders in government to work with us in creating that future.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

The discrimination and injustice that infects health care is, just as Dr. King said, shocking and inhumane. This has never been more obvious than it is today. Prioritizing public health and creating a health care system whose intention is to sustain health would save so many lives and be an invaluable asset in the fight against COVID-19.

Why is that not our reality?

Why do we, as a nation and as a state, still want people to prove that they deserve health care?

And now that we’ve seen COVID-19 kill so many, how is it possible that some still feel that health care isn’t an inalienable right?

Dr. King preached about structural racism and its evils. Structural racism stands in the way of health care that truly works. If Dr. King were alive, he would ask us: why do we keep choosing a lack of empathy, a lack of logic, in favor of an abundance of greed?

Why do we continue to let folks die just because they’re poor? Just because they’re Black? Just because they live one zip code over from us?

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice.”

This is Dr. King’s ever-green call to action. While Dr. King advocated the importance of unity, allyship, and nonviolence, he didn’t advocate for passivity.

People often confuse nonviolence for an absence of action.

The uprisings against racial injustice call upon us to look at ourselves as individuals and as organizations. Dr. King might say to us today: “If you are not actively anti-racist, if you do not call out racism in your social circles, in your family, in the institutions that make up your life, you are racist.”

He would remind us that along with explicit racism, insidious racism is designed into all the systems and structures that make up American society. We all have a responsibility to work ardently to uproot both kinds.

Let us not mistake civility for a lack of accountability. We are divided, but we can be unified while still demanding respect for human dignity from one another. At Universal Health Care, we believe it starts with health care.

We are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past. Every year offers a new opportunity to right our wrongs. We need to create every opportunity to offer health care to more people. We need to create every opportunity to eradicate racism. We need to create every opportunity to undo systemic harm. We need to get to work.