On being a white activist

I’m White. Capital-W, raised in the suburbs, maybe 2 Black kids at my elementary school White. I named this page after a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr: in his sermon “Transformed Nonconformist” he said “Everybody passionately seeks to be well-adjusted,” he said. “…but there are some things in our world to which men of good will must be maladjusted….Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

In the same sermon he also said “There are those who tell me that I should stick with civil rights, and stay in my place. I can only respond that I have fought too hard and long to end segregated public accommodations to segregate my own moral concerns. It is my deep conviction that justice is indivisible, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
King was a hero to Black people, and the widespread maltreatment of Black people led him to fight the underlying system which begets oppression. He chose to strike at the heart of the issue, and as a result he fought for all of us.
Black communities suffered from widespread poverty, so he embraced socialism and fought the causes of poverty, greed and the capitalist systems which were built around it. Black folks were drafted and killed in combat at disproportionate rates, but he spoke out against the Vietnam war as a whole. If he’d lived longer, seen the rise of queer awareness and the widespread oppression of queer folks, gay and trans people of color especially, I’m certain he would have been a champion for queer people as well.
King was many things. He was a civil rights leader, a socialist, one of the greatest orators and philosophers of the modern age. Unlike many Black leaders who quite reasonably chose to focus on the Black audience, he chose to speak to everyone, to attempt a large scale transformation in the viewpoints of the general population, a massive paradigm shift in which non-Black, non-activist people would start to see some of the injustice which society makes it so easy to ignore.
King was and is a Black hero, first and foremost. I don’t claim him as my own; he was not a product of my culture. But I can listen. I can say “this was a very smart man”, read his works, think on and internalize his philosophy. I can learn to center the people most affected by a particular issue, to signal boost rather than speaking for myself on subjects which do not affect me personally. I can encourage others to do the same.
In “A Proper Sense of Priorities”, he said “On some positions cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?!’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience must ask the question, ‘Is it right?!’ And there comes a time when one must take a stand that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular. But one must take it because it is right.”
I’m just trying to do what’s right.