As we pause to remember the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a person whose words and actions changed the path of American history, it’s appropriate to remind ourselves and hopefully heed for the first time what that the man of peace and justice preached for those who have been heretofore resistant in doing so.
The basic tenet of King’s message is embodied in his “I Have A Dream” speech in which King basically said of having a dream of living in a country where people can be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.
Although King is remembered most by this famous speech, besides his marches for civil rights, the man also stood for, and preached something even more fundamental and that is the need to care for one another and tending to the needs and plight of the underprivileged.
While King’s message for the need to live in a society free of racism was directed mainly to those who would practice the vice to the detriment of blacks, his message for caring for one another and tending to the needs and plight of the needy and underprivileged was directed at all humanity.
But for the assassin’s bullet, King would have been 83 years today, assuming no other tragedy struck him.
A question we’ll never know is what other contribution King have made beyond his current legacy had he lived that long and even more importantly, would he be satisfied with the state of affairs in America were he alive today?
There is no question King would be happy albeit disappointed the country took this long to elect its first African American president but being the fair man he was, one can assume King could not blame all that on racism.
There was no more serious and electable black presidential candidate since before Obama and even though the Rev. Jessie Jackson could arguably be said to have been one such a candidate, he was and still is not one acceptable in all demographic groups that matter in electing a president not just because he is black, but also because of his ideology many, including a significant number of Democrats believed was too far to the left.
Obama, on the other hand, presented qualities and attributes somewhat different from Jackson’s and even though his current Vice President got flack for saying Obama was the “first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” that was in the end not too far from the truth in as far as why Obama swept the nation with his message of hope the country can believe in and handsomely beat the hapless Sen. John McCain on his way to the White House.
Could King himself have run and be elected president long before Obama?
That, too, is a good question we’ll never know the answer to but one can speculate probably not as the country would just not have been ready and given his path he was on, namely, the church and civil rights path, it would have been difficult for him to cross over or make a transition to traditional politics and, even if he had done so, he would have probably been met with the same fate as did Jackson, even though he was more acceptable and therefore more electable than Jackson.
Be as it may be, there is no question King would be satisfied and happy today that a fellow black man has overcome the racial barriers and ascended to the presidency of this powerful nation.
Beyond that, it’s doubtful King would be satisfied or happy where things stand today, especially in race relations.
To be sure, there has been great advancement in these relations and laws designed to ramp out discrimination have over the decades and years become more strengthened but there is a sense and evidence that the disease still rages on, unabated in certain circumstances.
The rise of the Tea Party movement in the country in 2010 is largely accredited to mostly middle class whites taking up arms to battle Obama on his economic policies but many a racist found a home in the movement and saw this as an opportunity to make sure Obama is a “one term president” not so much because of his economic policies, but because they (the racist lot) view him as an illegitimate president merely because he is black.
Anecdotal evidence thus far in 2012, however, appears to show this movement has lost its luster and will certainly not play any significant role in the elections of 2012 as it did in 2013.
An example of this, namely, the decline of the Tea Party movement, is their star candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, Michelle Backman, has faded from the limelight in that quest much as fast as she was thrust into it thanks in part to a Republican primary electorate that’s uncertain as to what they want other than the fact they don’t want Mitt Romney as their flag bearer–never mind all odd are he will be one whether they like it or not.
Separate from the Tea Party movement where clearly some in it either were or still harbor racist tendencies and motives, there has clearly been a concerted effort from many on the right to try and depict Obama as an illegitimate president and King would no doubt be very saddened by that even some would argue growing sentiment grounded in racism.
Recent efforts by many on the right, including almost all of Talk Radio calling for Attorney General Eric Holder’s head over a matter clearly not warranting such calls is seen by most independent observers as being racially motivated–again one more example of things that would make King sad and unhappy even to this day.
Besides the rearing of its ugly head once again in the political front, few will argue with the fact overall institutional racism is still alive and well in America notwithstanding the progress that has been made over the decades since King’s days of marching and preaching for racial harmony.
Although these are realities of life King would not be satisfied or be happy about, there are equally undesirable things happening within the black community King would not be happy or satisfied with either that have nothing to do with racism.
The violence and use of drugs in the black community, for example, cannot be reasonably all attributed to racism.
Ditto for any number of maladies that afflict the black community, including higher than normal poverty and unemployment.
To be sure, racism has played and continues to play some role in the existence of these maladies but, as is the case with the Tea Party movement, you remove that factor, you are still left with the maladies.
In other words, if you remove the racist element from the Tea Part movement, you are still left with non-racist white people genuinely opposed to Obama’s economic policies, especially as it relates to government spending many believe has gone out of hand.
In the black community, you will still have black on black violence and peddling of drugs even if you rounded up all white racists and dumped them in Siberia with no possibility of returning to America.
That’s a reality King will not be happy or satisfied about and the more this message is preached to the ones who need to hear it most in the black community, the better.
In sum, King is no longer physically with us but his legacy lives on.
The dedication of his Memorial in Washington, DC ensures that will be the case in infinity and the words inscribed on the walls around the memorial that fell from his lips and writings must never be forgotten.
As we get ready to celebrate this historic man’s birthday, let’s ask ourselves if we have individually done our part to make his dream a reality and if not, let’s ask ourselves what can we do individually to make it a reality and there are many things we can do, starting from being involved politically and making sure we have in elected office, representatives who would vote or make decisions consistent with King’s dream and overall message of peace and caring for one another.
Peace, Love and Unity