The Unarmed Truth and Unconditional Love

A friend sent me a copy of a beau­ti­ful and remark­able speech made by his 17 year-old daugh­ter, Clare, to her school last Fri­day. With per­mis­sion from Clare and her father, I reprint it here along with her pho­to.

It is an hon­or to be invit­ed to speak briefly on behalf of myself and my fam­i­ly about Rev­erend Mar­tin Luther King Jr, one the great­est Amer­i­cans ever born. The fact that our coun­try cel­e­brates a nation­al hol­i­day in remem­brance of such a leader, leg­end and lib­er­a­tor of free­dom is a clear recog­ni­tion of how great a man he was.

Racism is no longer as bla­tant­ly obvi­ous on the sur­face of our soci­ety as it was dur­ing the 1960’s when Dr King was alive. Today, it lies under­neath the sur­face, always dis­guised and undis­cuss­able. If I were to ask you if you are racist, you would prob­a­bly answer that you are not. I could direct this ques­tion to any of us in this gym, whether you are white, Africa-Amer­i­can, Lati­no, Asian or any oth­er eth­nic­i­ty. To under­stand racism today, we need to look under­neath the sur­face because no mat­ter who we are, we all feel feel­ings about peo­ple who are dif­fer­ent than us. The prob­lem is not that we feel dif­fer­ent­ly about oth­ers but that we are afraid to admit to our­selves that we feel differently.

This lack of insight leads to uncon­scious behav­ior. Often, I, as well as oth­ers, do not take the time to think back to the roots of where our feel­ings come from. It is so impor­tant to know what our feel­ings are and where they come from because that is how we can learn to change. If you do not know what you feel, you are like­ly to act uncon­scious­ly. Uncon­scious­ness breeds fear and fear breeds hate.

Racism, sex­ism, homo­pho­bic behav­ior and any oth­er forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion sprout from people’s fear of dif­fer­ence. This behav­ior and dis­crim­i­na­tion is no longer as appar­ent as it once was but it is com­mu­ni­cat­ed dai­ly through our uncon­scious actions, feel­ings, jokes or hurt­ful words towards oth­ers. Just walk­ing down the halls at our school you can hear peo­ple using sex­ist or racial slurs as the butt of a seem­ing­ly harm­less joke. This form of uncon­scious dis­crim­i­na­tion con­tin­ues to seep deep­er and deep­er below the sur­face of society’s aware­ness. It hurts not only the indi­vid­ual, but hurts all of us as a soci­ety. A painful nation­al exam­ple of this form of uncon­scious behav­ior was seen this past year with the government’s inad­e­quate response to Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na vic­tims. No one intend­ed to act with dis­crim­i­na­tion. But you only had to watch the night­ly news to see that most of the vic­tims of Kat­ri­na were poor and black and not receiv­ing the aid they des­per­ate­ly needed.

I grew up in an envi­ron­ment that encour­aged me to inves­ti­gate my feel­ings. My fam­i­ly taught me the impor­tance of reflect­ing upon my think­ing before I act­ed because they held me respon­si­ble for the out­comes of my behav­ior. We all need to take a look at our own think­ing and deter­mine why we think the way we do. Is it because that was how we were raised or because those are our parent’s opin­ions? Sim­ply ques­tion­ing your think­ing process makes you aware of your feel­ings and thoughts and allows you to be lib­er­at­ed but this takes matu­ri­ty, mod­esty and a will­ing­ness to change. We are all scared to search with­in our­selves because we can­not be sure of what we might find. How­ev­er, this step is essen­tial for one to change and con­tin­ue growing.

Mar­tin Luther King is an inspi­ra­tion to me because he reminds me to car­ry for­ward his dream every­day. He called each one of us to join in a broth­er­hood and sis­ter­hood between all races, ages, gen­ders and all lev­els of soci­ety. His dream makes us believe that the world can be a bet­ter place. I believe that such a place can exist because I have seen it, here at our school, when peo­ple admit­ted their faults and learned how even their sil­li­est jokes might actu­al­ly have hurt some­one severe­ly. So, I ask you to join me this morn­ing in renew­ing our efforts to reflect upon the dis­crim­i­na­tion and racism with­in our­selves, with­in our school com­mu­ni­ty and with­in our soci­ety. Togeth­er we can change our com­mu­ni­ty, bring hope to oth­ers and begin to cre­ate a bet­ter world in which our chil­dren will not have to suf­fer or endure the effects of any type of discrimination.

I would like to end with a quote from Mar­tin Luther King,

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so trag­i­cal­ly bound to the star­less mid­night of racism and war that the bright day­break of peace and broth­er­hood can nev­er become real­i­ty. I believe that unarmed truth and uncon­di­tion­al love will have the final word.

Thank you.

[Poster by Maine Com­mis­sion for Com­mu­ni­ty Ser­vice]

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