January 18, 2021

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” –
Martin Luther King Jr.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has always been one of the biggest inspirations to me. Likely, because as a minority raised in an all Black neighborhood, our birthdays were the same week. Trust me, I know it seems small. But when I look back as a young kid, living a few blocks off Prospect, that was the reason I gravitated to him and loved to read about him. What’s also true is that because I am turning 40, and fighting brain cancer, I don’t know what the future holds. So following such an intense election year, I feel compelled to write this.

In a sad world where so many friends and family are divided on partisanship lines, I currently see many of those people I love, and other Americans, online celebrating Republican voices being banned and censored in society, and now even in the workforce. We are attacking people’s ability to earn a living?

It had me ponder what if we silenced Democrat voices in the days of MLK? After all, many “Dixiecrat’s” led the opposition to all that he stood for out of pure hate for the color of his skin. In fact, history tells us those sympathetic to the civil rights movement —or even friends with Black Americans in public — lost jobs, and were banished in many ways from local society. Our education system left much of that part out.

Where would we be today if the same were true then? Were JFK, RFK, union leaders or millions of their members the same as those hate filled racists who celebrated lynchings and the Confederacy? After all, they shared the same party?

The answer is, of course not. We can easily turn to Dr. King’s own actions in the moment. Here’s a man who faced hate that few who read this have ever experienced—or even realize—as a civil rights icon in the Jim Crow south, just decades from legal slavery. If anyone had the right to demand such an act, it was him. Yet, he embraced anyone who was sympathetic to his cause, regardless of party or policy differences. He looked at people not based on politics, but instead their heart.

It’s sickening to think millions of Americans were humiliated daily in public, forced to drink from other fountains, eat at certain establishments, and attacked by dogs, based solely on the color of their skin. To think they endured this while knowing their parents or grandparents were not even considered human, should stun each of us. I know it does me. This was just a generation ago.

There is no doubt that same hate exists today, and our education system needs to do a better job of teaching this ugly history. But imagine a world where it was so open and accepted? That is not America today.

And how quickly we can forget it was our own government that too harassed, spied and smeared Dr. King, Brother Malcolm, and so many Black voices as extremists. Yet, today we celebrate those same agencies and tactics being used on those we differ from ideologically?

There is no defense of racism and hate for someone based on skin tone, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender. It disgusts me. And it should disgust every one of you. In fact, all hate is the voice of evil and darkness. We must be the light.

Today I ask those that truly read this to step back and think for a moment in the mind of Dr. King. Not in defense of any political party, but in that of our God given inalienable rights. For, I fear one day our kids will look back in this moment in shame that we celebrated the silencing of opposing voices, and the total banishing of Americans we disagree with from this new digital society, based not on illegal acts of hate, but purely on partisan ideology. How foolish are we to think that authority or behavior can’t be reversed? How naïve are we to give corporations like Big Tech, or our own government, this authority? It is the ability to dissect illegal acts of hate from policy or partisan politics, in order to protect all of our inalienable rights, that has made America the envy of the free world.

This week, while we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. it is more important than ever, in this digital aged world, to remember that sadistic hate which killed Dr. King, Malcolm X, JFK, RFK and so many others. Yet also never forget those inalienable rights that our society is quick to dismiss today. It is these proud American rights, in a hate filled world, that gave Dr. King, and so many other inspiring Black American voices throughout history, the platform to forever change America and the world.

Always be the light.

Christopher Moreno is a father of three, cancer survivor, and former Lee’s Summit City Councilman, representing District 4.