By Vernon A. Williams
It is difficult to remember a time when this nation has less reflected the prophecy and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The brutal truth is that seldom has this nation been more antithetical to the wonderful and profound teaching and example of the civil rights martyr.
As a matter of fact, many of the hypocrites who will undoubtedly accept a day off with pay Monday, January 17, would have nothing of Dr. King taught in the schools if they had their way. These are the individuals perpetuating the myth that teaching racial matters in the schools is somehow divisive and offensive.
With the erosion of voting rights, women’s rights, political influence among people of color, increased health disparity, broadening economic gap, absence of social justice, marginalization of the most vulnerable and arrogance among leadership, there is little to validate Dr. King’s impact on America.
Imagine the twisted logic of bigots who assert that teachings of a man whose life was dedicated to peace, love, justice and unification of Americans can reflect division. It embodies the monumental distancing of incendiary rhetoric from historic relevance to perpetuate a political agenda. We are more of a disgusting “we” and “they” society today than at the height of Jim Crow segregation.
Those who abuse Dr. King commemorations to boast how far we have come as a nation should have their tongues cleave to the roofs of their mouths. Their willful disregard for the truth is, in large measure, the reason progress is so painfully slow and virtually non-existent in many areas. If Dr. King were alive, there is no doubt he would be gravely disappointed and likely feel there has been major retrogression.
America is not living the dream.
During those turbulent years of the 50s and 60s, there were brutal examples of resistance to racial harmony that shocked the nation – from Emmett Till’s murder, to the assault of protesters marching to Selma, to the Philadelphia, Mississippi, murders of civil rights workers, to the shotgun killing of Medgar Evers, to the Birmingham church bombings stripping the lives of four Sunday School students.
Folk who think those egregious acts of hatred are relics of the past are sadly mistaken, ignorant or purposely deceptive. Those horrific episodes are mirrored in the heartbreaking fates of Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland and literally hundreds of others whose names we have sadly listed among victims only since 2000.
In 2021, Congress set aside $770 billion for military spending, which was $25 billion more than was asked. And yet student loans are unforgiven, rent amnesty expired, unemployment resources are exhausted, no money is available for spiraling prescription costs for the poor, education dollars dwindle, children’s programs are threatened and childcare subsidies are considered excess. Priorities are out of whack.
Shamelessly biased state lawmakers, meanwhile, construct gerrymandering restrictions and voting restrictions designed to deprive Black and brown Americans of the rights for which Dr. King so diligently fought most of his life, the right of one vote for every one man or woman. Now on the holiday weekend, politicians will stand on their respective soap boxes pretending to love democracy.
Finally, Biden speaks up on the challenges to voting rights saying:
“I’ve been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress over the past few months. I’m tired of being quiet. I support changing the rules, whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights (through filibusters).
“We stand against the forces in America that value power over principle, forces that attempted a coup against the legally expressed will of the people by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud and seeking to steal the 2020 election.” He asked, “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? John Lewis or Bull Connor? Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”
In the spirit of Dr. King, the president is now poised to lead the fight for voting rights by any means necessary. If Dr. King were alive, the question he would likely pose is, “Mr. President… what took you so long?’
Now the question is whether or not it is too little, too late.