Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Teach-In 2022
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – This year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Teach-In was led by professor and activist Dr. Timothy E. Lewis, and titled Exposing the Truth of the American Lie: from MLK to CRT. Dr. Lewis began his moving oration by discussing the contrast between the public perception of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. before and after he was assassinated. He asked “How many of Dr. King’s accomplishments do you know without doing a google search?”. Many Americans today, white Americans to be specific, remember a more palatable version of MLK. They pick and choose quotes, grab sentences randomly, and overlook the context of MLK’s speeches and writings to paint a false narrative. A narrative of a perfect, law-abiding, all-loving man that doesn’t challenge their comfort level.
The reality is that MLK took precisely the stances and actions that those who prefer the filtered version of MLK oppose: “The very people that will celebrate him on Monday will advocate against the issues he stood for on Tuesday”. Dr. Lewis makes the powerful and accurate claim that “you likely think that the biggest block to racial equity is racial extremism, but the main block is the middle-of-the-road white person". White moderates uplift him for not breaking the law, but he broke the law to protest. White Americans pay attention to his quotes about love, but not to his quotes about capitalism or militarism. So why is it so common to water down MLK’s radicalism? Why do we consistently put a filter over American history? Dr. Lewis explains that there are four racial lies that America is built on:
#1: “American laws are moral.”
#2: “It is acceptable to have different laws for different racial groups.”
#3: “It is okay for white people to make laws without any input from black people.”
#4: “If a law is fair on paper it is inevitably fair in application.”
Dr. Lewis reminds us that “almost everything you think you know about America is untrue”. We need to challenge these lies. Because of the perpetuation of these lies, black people are incarcerated and murdered by police at significantly higer rates, yet white moderates still “condemn those who break the law in the name of justice, but never condemn those who break justice in the name of the law". Because of the perpetuation of these lies local and state governments and school boards put the comfortability of white parents above teaching critical race theory, and fail to even define CRT in their laws that forbid it. We need to unlearn these lies and commit to accurate, truthful telling of American history.
Dr. Lewis poses a challenge to us. He asks those that consider themselves "good, white, moderate” people to consider that “you may be white and moderate but you may not be good". If you don’t think you have more to learn, you are not good. If you are “more committed to the law than to justice” you are not good. Every day
we (specifically white people) need to ask ourselves, are we really committed to justice? Are we prioritizing our white comfortability over progress? Are we upholding these four racial lies? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deserves to be remembered and honored truthfully. We must be honest about American history on MLK day and every day.
By Katie Solodar
Provost and Dean of Faculty Mark Brodl spoke briefly at the event.
President Georgia Nugent sat with the audience during the lecture.
Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Karla Carney-Hall and Associate Professor of Nursing Amanda Hopkins together at the teach-in.