Opinion: “We’re All In The Same Boat” How The Words of Martin Luther King Jr. Continue to Influence America Today

Dimitrios Donas ’23

The topic of racial inequality has gained substantial momentum in America as of late, notably following the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.  Following Floyd’s death, which was caught on video for all to see, social and political unrest became a recurring theme within society.  “Defund the police” became a famous slogan for those looking to fight systemic racism, while others were quick to defend the police system.  In the end, the issue must be seen through an objective lens: Black males are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts. Racial prejudice surely exists in America.  It is also a fact that defunding the police does not work. It only exacerbates the problem of irresponsible and unfit police, as decreasing their funding results in less training, fewer police officers, and ultimately, more stressed-out, paranoid cops.  However, a silver lining to these events was the increased occurrence of peaceful protests seen all over the nation.  Though the media would prefer to show viewers the violent clashes between protesters and police, unravel the Kyle Rittenhouse saga, or demonize law enforcement, these instances are only a small part of American society.  In the end, the vast majority of Americans agree that America requires reform in both communities and law enforcement.  This reform happens only when Americans can abandon their tribal nature and look past partisan lines.

After a brief overview of the issue at hand, I propose that Americans come together as one society and recognize the faults in every ideology and belief system.  Though this statement may come off as cliché and redundant, one does not need to look further than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), which Americans celebrate on January 17th, to understand that unity within society is the only way out of racial inequality. MLK once said, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”  Those within politics are quick to criticize America for being systematically racist, which is ironic, as the “system” they speak of is the same government in which they have a prominent role. 

As a society, we must understand that politicians are often only serving to boost their personal popularity and images; they are neglectful of the fact that their words criticizing their opponents only increases the racial tension within society by pitting those of different political beliefs, and often different races, against each other. Though most might not like it, the only way for progress to be made is if everyone comes together, regardless of their conflicting beliefs, to change society from the ground up.  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” is another notable MLK quote.  This statement contradicts what has been demonstrated in America in response to racial injustice, namely riots and division created through hate for the other side. 

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” perfectly sums up the American experience.  Enslaved people were once brought by ship, sold as property, and immigrants who hailed from numerous countries fled poverty and oppression.  Fast forward to the modern age, and the descendants of these people are now part of the same society, yet they are divided.  This begs the question: What will get America past the issue of race and inequality?  Ultimately, the answer lies within the American people, not the politicians and elites who love nothing more than to label “the system” and groups within society as racist, pitting groups against one another.  Most Americans would likely agree with this statement; however, how will they respond when it comes time to accept those of different beliefs, backgrounds, and races?