2023 Celebrating Dr. King

For decades, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been revered around the world for his groundbreaking civil rights activism. We share a collective memory of a noble reverend that led his people through unimaginable circumstances. However, it is hard to imagine that he would be well-received in our current political context today, given his disruptive tactics and relentless commitment to awakening the white consciousness.

Let’s not forget that King was considered radical, even for the 1960s.  Dr. King was surveilled by the FBI, after Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy approved wire-tapping his phone calls. He was even considered a threat to national security.

He was a bold front-runner. He championed causes he knew were just, regardless of the cost. He was not afraid of what he would lose for standing on the side of justice. If we truly intend to honor Dr. King’s legacy, then we must be bold. We must be willing to do what is right, even when others around us are afraid to join us. Dr. King did not do what was comfortable or easy; he was constantly putting himself in situations of extreme discomfort, even danger, to advance his cause. White folks and those with other kinds of privilege must be willing to do the same if they are to think of themselves as allies.

Dr. King said as much himself when he wrote, “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice.”

For many of us, taking a stand for what is right will bear a cost, but that cost is far less dear than what Dr. King and other Black folks would have had to endure in 1963.

We must be more committed to justice and equity than order and comfort. This commitment expands into the work of providing care and those who hold that honorable occupation.

Nurses are a special profession. We often praise ourselves for this and rightly so. And yet, historically, the fields of health provision and nursing have fallen short of our profession’s charge: to care for society’s most vulnerable. Racism shows up in many forms throughout this profession, and results in devastating healthcare inequities. See The National Commission to Address Racism’s Report on Racism in Nursing

As nurses, we must be leaders. We cannot wait for other professions to act – we must lead by example.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.” – Dr. King

The UW School of Nursing has made antiracism efforts a priority for the school – one step of many needed toward embodying Dr. King’s dream of an antiracist society.

Between launching the Center for Antiracism in Nursing, to embedding antiracist principles throughout our DEI strategic Plan, to our annual antiracist/diversity, equity, and inclusion teaching institute, our school is leading by example and hopefully inspiring other professions to embed these principles into their educational and institutional practices.

We are proud to partner with the other UW health sciences schools to honor a member of our community engaging in impactful community service. This year, we proudly recognize Interim Dean & Associate Professor Dr. David Reyes of University of Washington Tacoma for the Health Sciences Martin Luther King Award. Dr. Reyes has displayed exemplary leadership for his commitment to community engagement and leadership. His dedication truly embodies the spirit of this holiday, which is to serve our confidently communities most in need.

There are people like Dr. Reyes who are every day living out their professions with this courage and commitment to community. Let all of us put into action these same values that honor the legacy of Dr. King.

Post written by Kahlea Williams- Project Operations Manager – Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion & Center for Antiracism in Nursing