January 15, 2018 marks the 89th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was cut down in the prime of his life. This erudite master orator gave freely of his talents in service of freedom and justice, especially as it relates to the African American community, but targeting all Americans. A second generation minister, he was pastor of a church in Atlanta when he was recruited to become the spokesperson for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This catapulted him into the eyes of the nation, and the boycott was successful.
Dr. King was one of the best persons to heed the call. His father, Martin Luther King Sr., was responsible for getting his son involved in activism. He was a brilliant student who entered Morehouse College at the age of 15. He was also somewhat of a prophet. During a speech that he gave during the Memphis, Tennessee sanitation workers’ strike, he spoke as though he knew that his life would end soon. He said that though he may not get there with us, we as a people will get to the “promised land.” He was right about not reaching it.
He was assassinated on April 4, 1968 on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. To this day, there is a question as to who was responsible. James Earl Ray was accused, but even Dr. King’s children came to the conclusion that he was not responsible. It is certain that whoever assassinated Dr. King had hoped to assassinate his dream as well. The irony is that people have not learned that you can kill a person, but you cannot kill an idea that has merit.
Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was masterful oratory. He would probably have felt that his dream was partially fulfilled when former President Barack Obama became the first African American president. Unfortunately, Obama’s ascension was basically a teaser of sorts. From the moment he stepped into office, he met with constant opposition. His election was so traumatic for a certain segment of America’s white population that it continues to this day. It paved the way for the election of the 45th president, Donald Trump, who is currently attempting to unravel every gain that Obama made. Ironically, a lot of white people, those who hate Obama, are going to suffer the consequences of Trump’s actions. But their bigotry is so engrained that it has rendered them emotionally blind, deaf to the truth, and just plain dumb!
This irrational behavior on the part of Trumpsters, Neo-Nazis, (who seem to be having a resurgence), and others with an extreme racial hatred of everything Obama is indicative of a deeply ingrained illness among a certain class of white Americans. It seems to be no closer to abatement than when Dr. King was killed. This illness is an exaggerated form of xenophobia mixed in with selfishness. They don’t want to share the benefits of living in America with anyone of a darker hue.
There is a saying that it is always darkest before dawn. A lot of Americans, especially Black Americans, will say that it is, indeed, very dark. But that is only part of the story. The fact that Obama was elected is testimony to the fact that something HAS shifted in America. Recently, recreational marijuana was legalized in California, and though a great number of American citizens probably frown upon that notion, it is definitely another sign that things are changing. In fact, there is a schism that is happening wherein so-called “liberals” are becoming more-so, and “conservatives are becoming more mired in conservatism. Whenever there is an imbalance like this, change is inevitable. The numbers of people who choose sides will determine the direction that the country will ultimately take. Judging from recent events, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
For example, the fact that Roy Moore was defeated in Alabama, especially with the help of African American women, sends a very hopeful message. Dr. King talked about visions of hope wherein people are judged by the content of their character. He was right when he prophesized about his own demise; perhaps he is right about that thought. Essentially, it is up to all of us as a collective to determine whether or not we reach this goal. Let’s keep Dr. King’s dream alive. A Luta Continua.