The wall has nothing to do with border security. It is a racist applause line, a symbol that translates into “they are not like us,” they are separate from us” and “we are better than they are.” The wall is a lie.
On Martin Luther King Day, 2019, as the government is shut down because the president demands a wall on the southern border, it might help to consider what this wall really means. It might also help to consider Dr. King’s words in light of the debate about a wall.
The wall is a racist applause line. It was dreamed up to anger a base of frightened people, white people. In his promise to build a wall, the candidate, and then-president, tells white people to believe their fears of “the other” and that he can protect them from the fear he wants to make sure they feel. In all of his campaign rallies as well as the rallies since he became president, he uses the wall as a rallying cry for separation, a kind of American apartheid: “We are not like those people. They want to do us harm.” These are lies the president wants us to believe.
Dr. King, of course, had a radically different vision. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King wrote:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
Dr. King insisted that we are deeply connected to one another. That what happens to one of us, affects all of us. Our own human experience confirms this.
America is at a crossroads. We must choose which of these visions is true. These opposing descriptions of humanity will result in radically different consequences. If we believe the president’s lies about the wall, then we will build a world of arrogance, condescension, and racism. We build a world where one side constantly holds another side down. If we believe Dr. King’s vision and experience of human interconnectedness, we can create a world in which we take care of each other, protect each other, perhaps even love one another. I choose Dr. King’s vision.
Which vision will we choose?