Let’s Do Better.
by Coach Chris
If you went anywhere near your social media yesterday, you probably noticed it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the USA. Everybody and their mother was posting MLK quotes on Instagram. That in itself isn’t a problem. However, most of these quotes were posted without context. Without context, the true meaning of the quotes gets lost. The man that MLK was gets lost; whitewashed, and painted over with toxic positivity.
The one I saw the most, especially from gyms and trainers, was this one:
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Usually the caption read something like this:
“Let’s get after it today! Can’t wait to do those deadlifts. Happy MLK Day!”
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that MLK actually wasn’t talking about working out, when he said those words.
I encourage you to take 10 minutes of your day and read the entirety of the speech that the above quote (If you can’t fly etc.) came from. Dr. King said those words in a speech at Spelman College in 1960. It’s a pretty incredible speech.
You can find it here:
In the speech, Dr. King passionately outlines the serious moral, economic, and interpersonal issues facing the country. War. Segregation. The ever-growing thirst for profitability over people. Apathy. Moral relativism. Huge, complex, heartbreaking issues.
He says those famous words near the end of his oration to encourage a group of young black college students that it’s worth it. It’s worth it to keep pressing forward in their struggle to be seen as fully human by their white neighbors. Generation after generation of black families in America were treated like “things” and not like people. Can you imagine what that must have felt like, to be in their shoes? What this journey felt like to them, and continues to feel like for black folks today?
Dr. King’s words deserve our full attention, they deserve context, and they deserve better than to be used to sell gym memberships. There are plenty of other great quotes we can use, that won’t be watered down by using them for “Motivation Monday.” Google “Motivational sports quotes” for a start. Wayne Gretzky quotes can be just as inspiring…but they can be taken at face value and not lose deeper meaning, because there really isn’t any. No offense Wayne…talking about hockey just isn’t the same as talking about human rights.
Or, if you want to recognize Dr. King or other civil rights leaders with a social media post, consider what your intent is. Consider what message you really want to send. Ask yourself how you can honor this person with what you write, rather than use them. Take a minute to imagine yourself in their shoes, giving a speech like that. Give these incredible people the consideration they deserve.
During a time when racial injustice is once again at the forefront of the political sphere in America, context matters. We can use this as an opportunity to provoke thought, educate, and inspire on a much deeper level. In an age of sound bites and shallowness, we can encourage thoughtfulness. Always trying to DO better and BE better is how we can honor Dr. King’s famous words. This is one small way to start.