My opinion is, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the greatest American ever. Sustainability is a term not used during Dr. King’s time. I do believe he would have endorsed the concepts sustainability promotes. The definition of sustainability is to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. I dare take it a little further. Sustainability is improving the quality of life and the value of the planet without hindering others now or in the future from doing the same. This definition ties into the definition of social justice. Social justice exists when all people share a common humanity and have a right to equitable treatment, support for their human rights and a fair allocation of community resources. Dr. King was the most famous fighter for social justice in America. Dr. King had a vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth.
Unfortunately, not everyone believes sustainability and social justice are relevant. Dr. King was even accused of being a communist because he and his followers were fighting for everyone to have an equal shot at improving their quality of life. He was the best at recognizing social injustice not just for the African American community but for people all over the world. Social injustice is the polluting of the water and land where the poor and disenfranchised live, work and play. The people of Flint Michigan will have to deal with the issue of lead in their drinking water for a long time to come. Social injustice is not paying a decent wage. Companies in the fast food industry do not pay their workers a livable wage. Prices are outpacing wages and the middle class continues to shrink. Social injustice is over consumption without depositing anything back into the community you used for financial gain.
Dr. King fought for the right for everyone to live in a safe, clean environment. The poor low-income citizens have often lived on what King called “islands of poverty”. The poor live in the inner cities near industrial zones or around brown field zones. Low-income people are forced to live in the most polluted parts of our cities. If he were alive today, Dr. King would have empathized with the plight of those struggling to deal with drought, wildfires and floods brought about as a result of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere caused by the abuse of our natural resources. He would have brought these issues directly to the consciousness of America.
Now what? Will the fight for social justice continue? What can you do? We need for our collective voices to be heard. I recommend we throw our support behind local businesses that support our communities. We need to support those that pay a fair and livable wages to the employees. We need to support businesses that do not pollute our communities. We must get involved in the political process. Voting with your dollar is a very powerful tool and it speaks loudly to businesses. Dr. King said “There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.”
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