12/16/2013

Bending the ‘arc of the moral universe’

As the holidays approach, many of us will take time to reflect upon the past year – to think about the moments that have shaped our lives and the people who’ve crossed our paths and shared our experiences.

At the SPLC, we’ve been privileged this year to represent many people who have had the courage to stand up to injustice and to represent our supporters in the fight for equality.

For me, looking back on our year, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. come to mind: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

What those words mean to me is that, despite much evidence to the contrary, Dr. King had an unflinching faith in the march for justice. It’s a faith that we share. Forty-five years after his death, despite the strong backlash we’re facing from the reactionaries on the far right, we are making steady progress toward equality and justice.

But this progress cannot come without hard work and sacrifice. It cannot come without thousands of us standing shoulder-to-shoulder to bend “the arc” toward justice for all.

So, as the days grow shorter and the warmth of the holiday season draws near, I think about progress in terms of the people we’re helping and who are enriching our lives – and how so many others will be helped because we, together, took a stand.

I think about Joel Licea, the South Carolina student who will become the first member of his Latino family to attend college because of our work to ensure tuition fairness for the children of undocumented immigrants.

I think about Pat Newton, who faces discrimination because she wants to open a bar in a small Mississippi town not only to serve liquor but to serve as a safe harbor for the local LGBT community.

I think about Destin, a lesbian teen in Mississippi who was harassed and singled out in her school, by students and school officials alike, because of her sexual orientation.

I think about the impoverished African-American children in Alabama’s Black Belt who are being denied equal educational opportunities because of the terrible legacy of Jim Crow.

I think about the children in Birmingham who are being doused with pepper spray by police in school as a disciplinary measure.

I think about the hundreds of Filipino teachers for whom we won justice, in the form of a $4.5 million jury verdict, after they were cheated out of their wages and forced into exploitive contracts as guest workers in Louisiana.

I think about the pre-school Latino children in Louisiana who are now able to enroll in Head Start because we challenged the discriminatory practices that kept them out.

I think about a disabled Army veteran named Tracey Cooper-Harris who is in a same-sex marriage and can now get equal benefits because of a landmark case we won on her behalf.

I think about all of the Latino children and families in Alabama who no longer have to live in fear of racial profiling because we won a legal battle against the state’s racist anti-immigrant law.

I think about our work to expose and combat far-right extremists who poison our society with hate and violence – and, conversely, the work we’re doing in schools to reach millions of children with lessons that teach them to respect others and appreciate our nation’s wonderful diversity.

And, I think about our supporters and their dedication to human rights. It’s only because of their financial support that we can do this important work. I hope that all of our supporters will stay with us in the coming year as we continue to bend the “arc” toward justice. Have a wonderful holiday season.