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A Beloved Community: MLK’s Legacy Demands Acknowledgement of Shared Humanity

UUSC CEO & President Rev. Mary Katherine Morn reflects on how protecting human rights will advance Dr. King's vision.

By Rev. Mary Katherine Morn on January 15, 2021

“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 Birmingham Jail

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, describing the nature of our shared humanity, resonate as much as ever this year. Not only does globalization demonstrate daily how inextricably tied together we are, but a pandemic, by definition, is a natural process that illuminates the inescapability of the ties that bind us together, in danger and in hope.

As our awareness of humanity’s destiny as a shared destiny grows, economic and natural forces are creating challenges on a scale we have not known before. Climate-caused migration, massive wealth disparities, brazen corporate greed, and extractive racialized capitalism have caused incalculable suffering. Dangerous ideologies are wielded to divide us in our response to these global issues and drive further wedges between us.

Yet Dr. King offered these words as an expression of hope, of potential. We are all tied together in an indelible garment. When we embrace our kinship, we will be moved to work for the Beloved Community where all have what they need to survive. This is a beautiful articulation of the principles driving the work for human rights. At UUSC, we affirm our belief in the dignity and power of all people and our commitment to support transformative possibilities of people practicing self-determination, creating solutions from the grassroots.

Denying our shared humanity does not change the truth of our shared destiny. Yet many mistakenly believe that protecting the privilege and wealth of the few will save them from the dangers we face.

For those who were part of the violent attack on Congress and the U.S. Capitol on January 6, the toxic ideas and systems of white supremacy and Christian nationalism are clear drivers of sedition and hostility in response to democracy and fairness. The simple idea that motivates the range of extreme right-wing responses is white supremacy. White male supremacy. White male Christian supremacy. From the view of the conservative right, evil manifests itself in anything that challenges white supremacy—anti-racism, feminism, religious pluralism. These, of course, are the very principles that undergird the work of human rights, of Beloved Community.

We live in a complicated world of connections and interdependence. If we affirm the worth and dignity of every person, we must work tirelessly for systems and societies that uplift the dignity and ensure the power of all people, and especially the people who are most affected by injustice and oppression. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

In a few days we will witness the inauguration of the first president to serve this country after the insurrection. At UUSC, we will call for the new administration to answer the challenges of our times with uncompromising attention to the human rights of all. To build new systems that provide access and restoration, rejecting efforts to protect the systems that provide privilege and safety to a few at the cost of many.

Even as we demand accountability from our newly elected leaders, we must also ensure that those responsible for the crimes and damage done by the previous administration are held accountable. Without accountability, further harm is done and permission given for additional acts of violence. Worst of all, silence, “just moving on,” or moving to “reconciliation” signal disregard for the people harmed; in effect, this is a gift to extremists.

The garment of our destiny is at great risk. The only hope for a strong, colorful, durable fabric is the protection of human rights for all.

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About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!

Photo Credit: iStock – Pgiam

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