By Liam Walsh

I’d like to start with the summation of two ideas, then overlay the impact of MLK on these ideas.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States that outlaws discrimination based on racecolor, religion, sex, national origin, and later sexual orientation and gender identity. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools and public accommodations, and employment discrimination.

The Me Too movement (among other goals) helps to show survivors of sexual abuse that they are not alone. It improves awareness about sexual violence, showing how widespread sexual harassment and assault really are.  Me Too calls out the systemic ignoring of why our systems perpetuate people being brutalized by people with more power and privilege.

One point of the Me Too movement is to support and empathize with women who have been harassed and assaulted.  It isn’t a war on men, or meant to be used as a weapon to pursue individual bad men, but asks a union of all people to hear and believe individual stories of sexual violence and discrimination towards people with less privilege.  It seeks to build a world free of sexual violence and harassment by dismantling the building blocks of power and privilege.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex, but it only codified this equality, where Me Too calls for action to change a system still built on the power and privilege differential between genders.  

We need to see that those without that power are more vulnerable, both by race and gender.  And we need to protect space for victims of violence and discrimination to share their stories and support them as they recover from emotional damage.  We must see where our society fails to believe and protect people with less power and privilege from the selfish desires of those who have not suffered systemic bias.  

These two ideas, Me Too and MLK’s focus on civil rights in the 60’s, hinge on the painful fact that absence of any negative outcome that too many people will take anything from people they see as “other”.  People who are seen as less powerful, less important, less worthy are the easiest victims because nothing meaningful protects them.  It is a hard thing for someone who benefits from our systems to call for a new distribution of privilege and power, for those with privilege to give what had been theirs to others, and to support each other as brothers and sisters.

Dr. King’s words can still offer guidance today as all people seek to be judged by the content of their character.

Now it the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.

Now it the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

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