Today, we celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! Several writers and friends from the PNW have joined together to share their personal letters to King in the style of Bishop Woodie W. White. White annually pens his “Dear Martin” pieces that are deep reflections on the state of race relations in the US. For our writers, these short messages reflect the impact that MLK has had on each of their lives and ministry.

In today’s installment, seminary student Colin Cushman talks about a few of the same civil rights struggles both he and MLK have faced, while being on the frontline during protests.

Dear Rev. Dr. King,

I have recently been watching videos of the Civil Rights Movement. When I watch these, I get terrified because these brutal images are all too familiar. As I watch this footage, I have déjà vu because it is exactly the same as what I saw down in Ferguson, Mo.

The policemen advancing toward marchers, dressed in riot gear and wielding billy clubs, flashed me back to the St. Louis County police charging toward us. The videos of the police dogs resurrect images of howling K-9 units.

The “progress” we so readily trumpet as having taken place over the last 50 years is looking ever more feeble. True, we have had tangible gains due to the amazing work of dedicated organizers. However, the substance of racism still is alive and well, albeit driven underground and into our subconsciousness.

You had lynchings; we had one a few months ago.

You had state-sanctioned violence against Black bodies; so do we.

You had poll taxes; we have voter ID laws and states that “lose” thousands of voter registration forms from Black folks.

We have both been terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan. In our age that has “progressed” so far beyond yours, we can’t even come to the basic agreement that Black lives matter.

Dr. King, I would love to tell you that we’ve made a lot of progress 50 years later. Perhaps next year I will be able to.

Colin Cushman

Colin Cushman is a member of Kent UMC in Washington State and attends Boston University School of Theology.

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