Visions of Freedom & Actions for Justice – Together We Change the World

January 14, 2023

Written by Jeff Koetje, MD, AMSA Reproductive Health Programming Strategist

Visions of Freedom & Actions for Justice – Together We Change the World

As I write this, we are heading into the long holiday weekend that honors the life, leadership, and vision of civil rights leader Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. What is there to say about a society that assassinates one of its greatest moral compasses, and then establishes a day of remembrance, ostensibly honoring the man who was systematically hunted, pursued, and ultimately murdered? Murdered for pointing out the immorality of that society which has degraded (and degrades) itself in the worship of the false god of white supremacy? At the very least, we can say that this is a society that is deeply confused and disordered in its understanding of “justice.” 

This year marks the 60th anniversary of King’s most famous – and most abused – speech, “I Have a Dream.” Sixty years have passed since he gave that speech, and 55 years have passed since the white hot bullet of the white supremacist’s rifle pierced Reverend Dr. King’s body, and killed him. For speaking with moral clarity against injustice, and for speaking a moral vision for justice, this white supremacist society hated him, and killed him.

That’s the thing about injustice: no matter the form it takes, it always enacts violence and violation against actual people who exist in flesh-and-blood. Injustice is not immaterial; injustice is very material, indeed. Reverend Dr. King knew that; he knew that all too well. This is why – much to many white moderates’ and white liberals’ discomfort – Dr. King called out three evils of this society: “…I suspect that we are now experiencing the coming to the surface of a triple prong sickness that has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning. That is the sickness of racism, excessive materialism, and militarism. Not only is this our nation’s dilemma, it is the plague of western civilization.”

And why he said:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking
and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.” 

(Notice, King spoke the word “inhuman”, not “inhumane” as is often incorrectly quoted.)

For Reverend Dr. King, there is nothing disembodied about injustice – the violence of injustice is directly aimed at the enfleshed bodies and embodied spirits of those it targets.

It’s now six months since the judicial dismantling of the constitutional protections recognized by Roe vs. Wade. We are two weeks into 2023 and we have witnessed a slew of bills being submitted at state and federal levels that make clear the aims of systemic bigotry, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism are to inflict maximum violence, violation, and harm against flesh-and-blood humans whose particular human embodiment is taken as proof that they are not in fact fully human, and thus not worthy of the recognition of their humanity, dignity, and bodily integrity. Cruel bills that seek to strip away access to vital, life-sustaining healthcare, such as abortion care and trans-affirming care. Fascist bills that seek to systematically eliminate entire categories of humans deemed subhuman, such as the many iterations of state-level bills that would forcibly detransition trans people. Orwellian bills that claim to be “pro-life” but which will in fact increase death (of those whose lives don’t really count in the first place – Read: Sen. Bill Cassidy: Louisiana’s Maternal Mortality Rate Is Only Bad If You Include Black Women).

Despite voters’ recent demonstration of support for abortion care across the country, in this the first week of the new 118th Congress, House Republicans (who hold a bare 10-seat majority) passed H.R.26 – Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. It passed on a party line vote 220-210, with Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar the only Democrat to vote yes on the bill — thankfully this misguided bill has no hope of passing the Senate and becoming law.

Watch Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson share her personal story
and deliver a powerful speech opposing anti-abortion bills 

Reverend Dr. King – if he were alive today he would be turning 94 on Sunday – would certainly recognize and call these bills what they are: weapons of violence, because they are instruments of injustice. 

Sixty years since Reverend Dr. King spoke truth to white supremacist power in the shape of a freedom dream, we remain trapped in the fever dream of a white supremacist society deeply and violently confused and disordered in its understanding of justice. We do not honor Reverend Dr. King when we mindlessly quote a few phrases in his speeches that aren’t overtly offensive to white supremacist society. We do not honor him when our nation’s military budget balloons to the point of bankrupting our society, at the same time that families are bankrupted by medical debt, a form of indenture that literally does not exist outside of the US. No, we do not honor Reverend Dr. King with our yearly symbolic observance of his life and legacy on the third Monday in January. 

There is one and only one way to truly honor him and his vision: doing the work of physically transforming the structures of this society to create the material conditions for the collective thriving and flourishing of those against whose throats this white supremacist heteropatriarchal society has pressed the full weight of violent dehumanization. There is so much we can do, to truly honor a human who will forever be a great moral compass for us all. Will we take up the work of creating the Beloved Community, which Reverend Dr. King invited us to envision? Only then will any of us be able to break free from the fever dream of supremacist delusion, and enter the promised land where freedom dreams, and freedom-dreaming, are realized.

We applaud reproductive health freedom dreamers and doers at the Guttmacher Institute for envisioning paths forward. We invite you to explore and share ideas outlined here Eight Ways State Policymakers Can Protect and Expand Abortion Rights and Access in 2023, as well as resources and action opportunities with the AMSA Reproductive Health Project


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Visions of Freedom & Actions for Justice – Together We Change the World
(Jan 14, 2023)