Our favorite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes

Safe Harbor Voice  |  January 14, 2022
Our favorite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes

Safe harbor staff's favorite dr. martin Luther king jr. quotes:

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As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we want to emphasize that there is no survivor justice without racial justice. Survivors of domestic violence have their power and control taken away from them by their partners. Black, Indigenous, and People of color have historically had their power taken away from them by racism. 

This shows up in higher rates of violence experienced by people who have been marginalized, including Black women who are more than 2 times more likely to be murdered by men than White women are. At Safe Harbor, we feel that if we want to truly support survivors of domestic violence, we have to think about racism and all kinds of discrimination. We want to honor Dr. King in our work every day by working to lessen the barriers survivors of color face. We asked Safe Harbor staff to share their favorite quote by Dr. King and why it is their favorite. 

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

While this isn’t my favorite, I do think it is fitting for the work we are doing to become an anti-racist, diverse, and inclusive organization. We will not get there naturally or by chance, we have to be intentional about our efforts. It will be difficult and uncomfortable for everyone, but if we truly want change we have to embrace that struggle. Shawneequa Bigelow, Rapid Re-Housing Program Manager  

"The time is always right to do what is right." 

I believe doing what is right will always WIN!! - Michelle Hilborn, House Manager Anderson 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” 

 I like this quote because it shows that the small things do matter and whatever we can do to stop injustice can make a big difference. - Hannah Isanhart,  Social Media and Youth Engagement Fellow

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

This quote speaks to me because there is so much about the world that is disappointing. I like the idea that hope is something that never runs out.- Ana Castellanos, Bilingual Outreach Coordinator 

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

At the end of the day, you have to answer for your own actions. Do what is right. Don't stay silent, because it is the popular opinion.  - Brandi Davis, Facilities Coordinator 

"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

Hate takes so much of our energy and emotion. It burrows into your soul and turns most anything into something foul. Choosing love is the easiest thing we can all do each day. It can shed light on a dark thought or action. Choosing love is something we can ALL do. - Katie Rockwell, Resale Shop Manager 

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom...” - Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963

While there are many quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King that are important to me, this one stands out as particularly relevant to me personally. As a white woman with a passion for social justice, I am convicted by Dr. King’s words here to his white colleagues in ministry. These words challenge me to begin and end my work each day with an awareness of the unearned privileges I hold due to the color of my skin. Acknowledging my own privileges broadens my perspective to the barriers caused by systemic racism that are placed on the backs of Black, Indigenous and People of Color who are my friends, neighbors, co-workers, community partners and survivors of domestic violence in our community.

In understanding the obstacles that survivors of domestic violence experience every day, I recognize how often I have failed to consider the many additional obstacles that a Black survivor faces. She navigates not only through the power and control in her own relationship, but also through systems that were designed without her well-being or safety in mind. Black women die at almost 3 times the rate of White women due to domestic violence. How can we expect this statistic to change, unless we acknowledge and address the roadblocks that a Black woman experiencing domestic violence faces in a world where systemic racism is alive and well? Where does support live and who can she trust, in a world that was built to dismiss, disrespect or even dehumanize her?

This powerful quote from Dr. King reminds me of the importance of Safe Harbor’s work to become an anti-racist, multicultural organization. This work is critical in order for us to fulfill our vision “to influence a culture where all people feel safe and valued in their relationships.” We can see this vision unfold when we acknowledge our own biases and center the voices of people who experience oppression. Domestic violence and racism stem from the same roots of coercive control and dominance. By developing an anti-racist approach to our work, we can intentionally work towards dismantling the roots of oppression and to seek justice together with the survivors and communities we serve. This work equips our organization to live out our principles of safety, trust, mutual support, collaboration, cultural respect and empowerment, not just as words on a page but in our work with the individuals, families and communities we walk alongside daily.

Dr. King’s words remind me that I have been and could continue to be the “white moderate” he describes in his letter. I must continually check myself to strive for “a positive peace, which is the presence of justice”. His words strengthen my personal commitment to live an anti-racist life, to not only hear the truth but also to live by it. This journey is lifelong. I am grateful for all that I’ve learned and continue to learn each day. - Julie Meredith, Program Director  

Words from our Executive Director: 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

If you were to have asked me a few years ago which Martin Luther King, Jr. quote was the most impactful for me, I would have probably shared this one.

I am a firm believer in love, kindness, respect and grace.  This quote lives in my heart and I agree with Dr. King. 

But, as a result of my own work and the work that Safe Harbor is doing to learn more about the cumulative injustices of racism and our country’s history of benefiting some above others, I realize that just “being a light” may not be enough to create the beloved community that Dr. King dreamed and spoke about. Before we can “be a light” I believe we need to know what has and continues to go on in the dark, as well as how to become a light that everyone can see and feel.

So, today, this quote feels relevant and timely for me:

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans…These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.”

As a result of my commitment to re-educating myself, I have learned:

  1. Hierarchies that benefit the more powerful resist change.  They can be either ignorant or intolerant to those who don’t have power and control.  The work that Safe Harbor does every day to address and deconstruct individual and family power and control makes a difference for victims and their children. I’ve witnessed it. But, we know that our efforts with individual victims who seek our services can only go so far. We must go upstream to reckon with the underlying issues that create the conditions that feed domestic violence, allow it to grow, as well as the barriers that keep victims from asking for and receiving help and long-term safety for themselves and their children.
  2. While domestic violence does not discriminate, the fact is that women of color experience and are killed by domestic violence at rates far higher than white women. Women of color experience domestic violence, seek help, and face barriers differently than white women. Like most systems, the systems of responding to and helping victims of domestic violence were created with good intentions, but left the needs and realities of many victims and survivors out. As a result, women of color are less likely to reach out for help. And, when they do reach out, they have less access and assistance to get help. When victims, especially those victims whose identities intersect with one or more of a marginalized group, are not getting their safety needs met, they are at more risk to be killed by their partners.   
  3. Not only do women of color experience more domestic violence than white women, but the long-term effects of domestic violence also affect women of color disproportionately.  Access to education, competitive wages, affordable housing, child care, health care, health insurance and legal assistance are critical to long term independence from domestic violence. Because of our nation’s history of inequitable systems, persons of color have historically and unfairly experienced cumulative and generational poverty. The economic barriers can leave women of color with fewer options to even consider getting out of an abusive relationship, let alone a life of long-term safety. 

This list is far from inclusive. I still have much more to learn, which brings me to this quote:

“With patient and firm determination we will press on until every valley of despair is exalted to new peaks of hope, until every mountain of pride and irrationality is made low by the leveling process of humility and compassion; until the rough places of injustice are transformed into a smooth plane of equality of opportunity; and until the crooked places of prejudice are transformed by the straightening process of bright-eyed wisdom.”

At Safe Harbor, we believe that every person has the right for their “despair to be exalted to new peaks of hope”. 

The reality is that I will ever be listening and learning, with a lens of anti-racism and multiculturalism, how to use my power to be a part of “transforming the places of injustice”. I recognize that the lens is one I can choose to put on or take off. I do not feel racism’s impact on me personally. I never will. However, it’s my privilege and responsibility to listen to “bright eyed wisdom” in order to straighten my own “crooked places of prejudice”.  

I believe in change.  I believe that hope wins over fear and cynicism. I believe that light drives out the dark. 

May we all listen to and use “bright-eyed wisdom” to make hope and opportunity a reality for everyone.  - Becky Callaham, Executive Director 

I am a survivor of domestic violence.

“I didn’t know that I was being abused...

I am a survivor of domestic violence.

“I didn’t know that I was being abused because my definition of abuse looked different. My husband pushed me, but most of my suffering was verbal and psychological. I left my husband to protect our young daughter. Almost immediately I felt the weight of his oppression begin to lift. I could see a difference in my daughter as well. Then he broke into my home and assaulted me in-front of her.

I sought help and was led to Safe Harbor. My daughter and I are in counseling now. I am sorting out the mess that abuse has caused. I am finding my voice and seeking opportunities to grow and better my life as well as my daughter's. She will gauge her self-worth from my own self-worth. I must show her that she deserves the best, by expecting the best for myself.

Many years I suffered in silence. By telling my story and being honest with friends and family, I am taking control of my life again.”

- Beth



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