I often think about the King Holiday as a wonderful thing, a day of service and pride. The truth is white folk never wanted a King Holiday, particularly since he was the most hated man in America during his lifetime! Nonetheless, America today commemorates what would have been the 88th birthday of the civil-rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. They have hijacked, and they made the world believe his legacy was nothing more than an eloquent dream.
I am he knew he would go down in the history books but probably not to the extent it has; every city has a street or building named after him. Nor did he ever likely expect that even his children would live to see an African-American president nor did he expect them to see black men and women sitting in the halls of power, from Congress to universities to executive board rooms. All he was hoping for was to elevate the poor and the right to vote.
Race, in other words, is no longer the automatic barrier it once was, even if we still have not fully reached the point where people are judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” For that progress, we have Dr. King to thank. He turned the tide of history in just 13 short years, from the Montgomery bus boycott to the Poor People’s Campaign, before being cut down by an assassin at just 39.
Dr. King did so not through coercion, but persuasion by nonviolently asserting a moral authority that forced America to confront both its past and its present. It’s become commonplace to suggest what King would say about today’s political scene. In fact, his views were shaped by his times, and times keep changing always reverting but to the country’s racial and bigoted ways.
The most profound speech was when he denounced the United States as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and opposed the Vietnam War, urging his country to “get on the right side of the world revolution.” Of course, we know those were the words that got him killed! But it’s fair to say that the leader who fought for equality in the schoolroom would be dismayed by the continuing failure of too many children of color to receive a quality education and not because of Jim Crow, but because public-school systems today are failing their students.
I am sure he would be equally dismayed that many leaders of the today’s civil rights movement are now actively opposing efforts to remedy this through innovations like charter schools, which have proved that poor and minority students can succeed in the classroom, which it does not. I am sure he would not approve of the so-called idea of political correctness and discussions about race is nearly impossible for honest dialogue.
We should honor or him today because he never lost faith in the gospel of nonviolence or that he died believing that the full equality and dignity for all could, and would be realized in America. Although, he did not live to see it and nor will we! Wherever you are May God Bless your soul – we needed you then the dream and legacy now. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…