I always love the Watertown Unity Breakfast on MLK Day. And I always find that the most memorable and inspiring offerings are from the young people. This year was no exception. A group of middle school students performed a rap against racism they had composed. So beautiful. So direct.
The rap recounts Dr. King’s life and work, then moves on to challenge us to live into the legacy. At one point in their telling of the story of the civil rights struggle, the students summarized the early progress made with the phrase, “People got polite.” Yes, it really was (still is) about common human decency.
This great phrase brought to mind conversations I’ve had with my own middle school children, whose response to the ongoing injustices and indecencies they hear about and see around them is incredulity. “What’s wrong with people?” I’ve heard them say on more than one occasion. How would you respond? What is wrong with people?
“People got polite” also brought to mind the words of the great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, who called us to move from I-It relationships to I-Thou relationships. To see the other as fully worthy of being, a full partner in the gift and challenge of life, good and valuable without reference to my needs or my subjectivities.
Thanks to those who wrote and offered the rap. Thanks to all those who are speaking, singing, marching, and working for a better future for all God’s children. Let’s get polite, and just, and peaceful, and together.