This is a cross-post from my work blogging for Polaris–trigger warning for sexual assault, harm to kids, human trafficking. It’s in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day. Here’s some interesting sourcing on the title quote.
When we hear about a child being raped, it provokes horror, revulsion, and for those who have survived sexual abuse, the potential for crippling flashbacks.
Yet, when we hear that someone has paid to rape a child, this is a particular brand of gut-punch awful. With every new story I read about children being bought and sold for sex, I question whether we can ever atone as a society for not protecting them, and whether we can ever create a world where all kids can grow up safely. It is a crime which degrades our common humanity and sometimes it is hard to see the future without slavery we all work for.
At these dark moments, I think of Dr King’s famous quote, inscribed in the wall of his recently finished memorial in Washington DC:
“We shall overcome, because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.“
There is something profound in this, but it seems from the quote that the arc bends by itself. I work for a free future because I believe nothing changes unless we change it, just as no children would be raped if no one raped them. President Obama’s interpretation of that quote in his speech as a Senator on the anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination in April 2008 helped me see differently:
“Dr. King once said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice.”
Every day, I see people bending that arc by communicating with each other online—the status updates reminding friends to vote, the questions about why this law is better than that one for protecting children, the RTs which alone only touch a few dozen people but which together amplify our messages to hundreds of thousands.
As we approach Martin Luther King Jr Day, I have one such opportunity to move that arc towards justice that I’d like to ask your help with.
We are working to pass what are known as Safe Harbor laws in 7 states this year: Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Texas. We have a petition that anyone in the country can sign. You should sign it. But you should also consider forwarding it someone you know in each of these states.
It is our hands which must bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice. Our hands and our actions can build a free future. Thank you for reading and for acting.
“[...] it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”
Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time and realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”–Dr Martin Luther King, Jr