The time is always right to do right. Dr. King recognized that what we do, affects who we are and how we think. At the Freedom Center, we refer to this concept of Dr. King’s as “the three C’s: Conduct, Character, and Consciousness” (Wilson). The essence of democracy is found in our conducts. The late Congressman John Lewis said, “democracy is not a state. It is an act.”
Our conduct is our action. No conduct is neutral. It either uplifts us to our nobler selves or pulls us down. Spending a day registering voters uplifts our conduct, whereas spending all day on social media pulls down our conduct. In each of us is the capacity, and thus, the power to choose the actions we carry out on a second-by-second, minute-by-minute basis. The development of our nobler selves is making a habit of other-interested conduct.
Character is our moral and ethical strength that is essential in developing consciousness. It is the perception of who we are by others. The more we participate in community-building acts, the higher our character becomes. High character means being other interested and worldly. While low character is often seen as being self-centered and narrow.
Consciousness is defined by our ability to see beyond ourselves and understand events and people around the world. It is a sense of one’s personal or collective identity. Consciousness expands as character rises. A high character permits one to see, visualize and empathize with those living a reality much farther away, even as far as a different continent. A highly conscious individual is aware of the interrelated ways in which they are connected to the world. Low character is aware of very little beyond what is right in front of them.
The triple crisis of a pandemic, growing poverty, and systemic racism that is tearing the fabric of our community demands conduct that is unifying. It demands action that is other-interested. Today, we are challenged to work all over the world with unshakeable determination to wipe out the last vestiges of injustice (King).
King, “A Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Ebony (August 1963): 23–32.
King, Martin Luther. “Christmas Sermon on Peace.” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Massey Lecture Series, 24 December 1967. Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA. Sermon.
King, Martin Luther, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? New York, Harper & Row, 1967.
Wilson, Roy D. The Life and Legacy of Dr. King. Kent, WA, Institute for Community Leadership, 2018