Danny De Gracia: It’s Time To Follow King's Legacy And Do Big Things In Hawaii Again - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

The legacy of the late Martin Luther King Jr. is something so many of us gladly celebrate with a day off here in Hawaii, but how many of us in government are committed to continuing his legacy?

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If you were born in the 1970s or later, like me, you probably grew up learning in school about the valiant efforts of the civil rights movement and how King helped bring an end to racism. Toward the dawn of the new millennium, King’s legacy was interpreted by educators and policymakers alike to also mean that in addition to fighting racism and prejudice, gender and sexual equality were vital goals for the next American century.

We now have progressed even further in 2023 to say that equity, not just equality, is an even more important goal, because environments, institutions, traditions, policies and laws affect whole populations as well as individuals. We say things now like “your ZIP code can determine more about your life than your genetic code” and “people are a product of the choices that are made available to them.”

The semantics of these things may be too intimidating for the average Hawaii resident to consider, leaving many to just assume that elected officials and policymakers should just “deal with it” on their own. But it is important to remember that King was not a government leader, but a faith leader, whose spiritual and moral convictions stirred him to make the world a better, more just place for the people around him.

The way to truly honor King’s legacy is to recognize that every person has a role to play for good in an enlightened society. Above all else, here in Hawaii we need to start caring for each other, caring for our shared outcomes, and selflessly work for the good of all humanity, but especially our neighbors.

We Have To Rebuke Oppressors

King, who was a fiery orator and minister, likely took to heart an exhortation by Jesus found in Luke 17:3 that said, “Watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” In order to change, those of us who are doing wrong need to know that we are not doing things right in the first place. So long as we receive positive reinforcement or no feedback at all for hurting people or promoting unjust or unfair outcomes, we can’t change.

Martin Luther King memorial Washington DC1. 12 june 2016
If you want to be more like Martin Luther King Jr., you have to find the courage to speak up and speak out. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2016

Here in Hawaii, we have a culture of tacit approval and passivity in the face of oppression, corruption and sometimes outright theft. If you want to be more like King, you have to find the courage to speak up and speak out even when what you say will not be well-received and even when you may face persecution, career recrimination, and yes, personal isolation for doing what is right. The corrupt plantation that is Hawaii is perpetuated because we have become a silent people. It’s time to start rebuking oppressors in the Aloha State.

We Have To Sincerely Love People

Love is a powerful force that can motivate us to step outside of ourselves and selflessly seek the good of others. In Hawaii, it’s too easy to get consumed with showing up to work to pay the bills, leaving on time to beat traffic, finding babysitting options and all the other things that burn up our short lives while being distracted from the things that really matter.

If you’re too distracted by these petty things, you won’t be able to pay attention to the suffering of the people around you or the things that are wrong that need to be righted. Genuine love for your fellow human being produces devotion which allows you to sacrifice, endure and overcome.

It is disappointing to see how divided, argumentative and parochial people have become in recent years here in Hawaii. Politics flows downstream from the human condition, and if we want a better government, we need to learn to love one another again. Not just tolerate each other, but love each other.

We Have To Do Big Things

King’s most memorable speech told us “I have a dream.” You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it, but when was the last time you’ve dreamed?

One of the most frustrating things I’ve experienced living here in Hawaii is the lack of imagination I’ve encountered among so many people. The answer to everything is always something to the effect of “it can’t be done,” “it’s too hard,” “meh, it’s not so bad,” “the Legislature won’t do it,” “Gov won’t understand it” — and the “best” idea in the public square these days is usually the most mediocre, subpar, nonsensical thing to see the light of day.

Humans are different from every other creature on Earth because we have the power to turn thoughts into speech and speech into action and action into reality. Mediocre thinking results in mediocre living. Social justice, harmony, prosperity, all the things that King sought, are not the product of people who sit down, shut up and do nothing. King, who infamously railed against moderates, clearly understood that bad company corrupts good morals. We have to learn to do big things in Hawaii again.

We Need To Forgive People

The last and most important thing to King’s legacy is moving past offense, navigating differences and forgiving one another. In politics, bitterness, resentment and offense block us from being able to build alliances, understand each other and accomplish big things. In Hawaii, division is often strategically perpetuated by powerful political factions to keep us marginalized and ineffective, and this needs to stop.

Bad things have happened to all of us. None of us are without guilt. However, we truly defeat our “enemies” when we make them our friends. King was successful in part because he was able to reach out to both the Kennedy and Johnson presidential administrations and, despite his distrust for both, he made it a point to understand their perspective so they could understand his.

Imagine what we could do in Hawaii if our angry and divided electorate were able to forge alliances — and not just for candidates, but for each other — and if we were able to forget or mollify some of the offenses of the past together?

This Martin Luther King Day, let’s honor a great man not by sleeping in, but by awakening as engaged citizens.

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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Latest Comments (0)

Hawaii has an "angry and divided electorate"?....nah, they are all the same old party, follow the leader, and don't get out of line for their career's sake.

Kalama · 1 week ago

Mahalo for a wonderful and powerful reporting on the values of MLK, Jr. If it is to be, it's up to me. I'll participate in the Aloha State.

kealoha1938 · 1 week ago

Jeepers.....let's get real, Dr.King was not a capitalist - maybe we should start there.....

Augustus · 1 week ago

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