Contrast the Rhetoric of Today to the Examples of Dr. King
Just over a month ago I listened as a group of students in an oratory contest shared their thoughts on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how he would feel today about the state of America.
One said the iconic civil rights leader believed that all human beings, regardless of color, creed or economic status, had value and deserved both dignity and respect. Another mentioned how his nonviolent fight for racial equality resulted in him winning a Nobel Peace Prize.
This weekend, we will join fellow Americans to observe Dr. King’s birthday and celebrate the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America.
As we listen to speeches at the breakfasts, brunches, marches and walks, please consider the actions and the rhetoric emanating from our leaders in Washington and contrast that to the examples of Dr. King.
An ordinary Southern Baptist minister, Dr. King preached as an idealist, but he had a pragmatic side. He saw clearly, the realities of this world. The masterful political tactician championed the dignity of ordinary people around the world, especially the poor and voiceless.
He was no stranger to insults and threats. Still, he always maintained his dignity. And although he was persecuted by bigoted municipal, state and federal officials, he remained tough and unflinching in the face of injustice.
He predicted his death. He was in Memphis, Tennessee, preparing to support the city’s striking sanitation workers, when an assassin’s bullet cut him down as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
Despite the injustice, he still envisioned a better future.
As I look around, I see a community that is much different from the one in which Dr. King lived in the 1950s and 60s. In our schools and communities, little black boys and black girls now join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. Blacks, women, and gays are heads of major corporations and institutions of higher learning. They lead our cities, counties and represent us at the state and national levels.
Still, we live in a nation where we are judged by the color of our skins and not by the content of our character, as Dr. King hoped for. Power and access to opportunity remain unequal. Racism still plagues us.
Sometimes, that racism is blatant. Or it could be as subtle as a quiet, even polite, disparagement of a person or group of people. Worse, this could be from someone close, a family member, a friend of an acquaintance.
Though it may be uncomfortable, we should denounce it immediately regardless of the source
So, how can we close the chasm between what has been achieved and what Dr. King envisioned? And let’s make no mistake — such a gap exists.
There’s no doubt that Dr. King’s message or dream for America has taken a detour. All one needs to do is look at our country’s leadership over the last three years, to confirm that President Donald Trump has launched a frontal assault on Dr. King’s ideals.
As the student said, Dr. King certainly would be profoundly disappointed considering that only 11 years earlier, history was made when a black man was elected president, to lead this nation.
There are also those who would question the importance of the King holiday. A talk show host said this week that all the speeches and tributes are getting redundant.
I disagree because honoring greatness is never redundant. Let’s face it, the examples Dr. King set during those pivotal years of the Civil Rights Movement have ever-changing ramifications until today.
I too long for the day when we achieve Dr. King’s vision.
Such would be the day when we would be free from bigotry, prejudice, intolerance and other forms of irrational ideology and behavior.
Gone from our vocabulary will be terms “white men,” “black men,” “gay candidate,” “people of color,” and other labels of superficial judgment.
Let’s take this weekend to rejuvenate our souls and our commitment to the values Dr. King stood for: compassion, equality, justice, tolerance, truth, and non-violence among others.