Jeneé Osterheldt

We’re getting lazy celebrating MLK Day: Will you keep up the fight the next day?

On “Saturday Night Live,” a struggling student (Pete Davidson) attempts to explain MLK Day to the ghost of Martin Luther King Jr. (Kenan Thompson).
On “Saturday Night Live,” a struggling student (Pete Davidson) attempts to explain MLK Day to the ghost of Martin Luther King Jr. (Kenan Thompson). NBC

When I woke up Monday morning, I checked my phone as I often do. And my social media timelines were flooded with beautiful pictures of Martin Luther King Jr., inspiring quotes and hashtags.

#ReclaimMLK.

It’s a call to action, a movement to not just rest on the same words and images, but to actually do something to create change and awareness. To dig deeper into the movement the civil rights icon led. To carry on his fight not just on the day that bears his name but the next day, and every day.

Over the weekend, “Saturday Night Live” did a brilliant job tackling the lazy way we’ve come to view Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Kenan Thompson plays King’s ghost, helping a high school student with his MLK homework. The kid (Pete Davidson) explains the holiday that honors him.

The ghost asks, “Is that a day where black and white Americans come together and reflect on the progress we’ve made?”

“Not really,” the student answers. It’s just a day off work, he says. And, no, the movie “Selma” did not rack up a pile of Oscar nominations. And really, to speak out and protest anymore, all you have to do is tweet out the right hashtag. So simple.

The ghost’s response: We’re still climbing that mountain. And it looks high.

Among the many emails in my inbox Monday, one subject line read “18 MLK Day sales you can’t miss!” But in a country where we’re still fighting for economic equality, retail therapy is no way to celebrate King’s legacy.

The holiday has become diluted. Too often, we celebrate King on this one day, this one time of year, by simply talking about his legacy and his dream. But we’ve yet to make it to the Promised Land. I’m not talking about Oprah’s massive California estate, but a country where equality, justice and economic freedom are a reality.

Selma was a mere 50 years ago, and we’re still marching. We must continue to march. Even when our feet are tired and the days are long, we must stay in this fight. Not just on one holiday or during one movie or one month. Not just in the form of a protest, but by voting, by communicating, by lobbying, by working together.

We can’t simply call out injustice when it happens to people who look like us; we must stand up to inequality and wrongdoings on behalf of humanity. King loved not just black people or white people. He loved all people. And if we all lived a life that made love an active verb at all times, we wouldn’t stand for brutality, for poverty, for intolerance.

As King once said: “Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard?”

What’s it going to be, people?

To reach Jeneé Osterheldt, call 816-234-4380 or email josterheldt@kcstar.com. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. On Twitter @jeneeinkc.

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