The sentiment behind the holiday honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is as important today as it was when Dr. King was alive.
Sadly, not enough has changed. From lynchings to school curriculums being challenged in the name of Black lives, we are still fighting the battle he championed.
Why is it so hard for us to be equal? Why are so many people still prejudiced, racist, discriminative, and selfish? Why are there so many laws in place that still separate us as people and why does the American government refuse to mend these with the stroke of a pen? These are all questions so many of us are still asking and yet we can only do our part as individuals to try to live up to Martin Luther King Jr’s, “,I Have a Dream,,” speech.
Every January 17th, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday, we remember and honor what he believed in, reminding us that we still have a way to go for true equality.
I am sure he would still be heartbroken at the amount of white supremacy that continues to plague American citizens.
He would be angered at the media’s portrayal of the Black man and the Black family. He would be disappointed at how we still suffer to unite as a Black race. It has been 60 years since Dr. King fought for us and even though we would have hoped for more significant change, that is sadly not the case. Dr. King believed in non-violence as a moral and political ground to reach his “Dream.” But in this dream he understood that he might not be around when we finally reach the level of freedom we deserve. A level of freedom we still crave. The non-violent approach to achieving this happiness is still yet to remain a debate. We have to remember why our leaders during the Civil Rights Movement chose non violence as a tool to fight against discrimination and inequality in the first place.
Dr. King and other civil rights leaders understood that segregationists would go to any length to maintain their power and control over African Americans. They felt that if other people saw all the violence that was happening in the Southern states of America to Black people, that maybe they would step in and help somehow. They wanted to show the world that the only reason Black people couldn’t succeed was because of the horrible violence they faced.
There was definitely enough violence to attract the news media and newspapers. It was so bad that many African Americans took it upon themselves to defend their lives and property with whatever weapons they could; protecting their homes, churches, and meeting places most of all. This was probably the only form of violence they participated in and they didn’t compare the two at all. There was violence against Black people everyday; car bombings, kidnappings, burning of homes, cross burnings in front of churches, etc.
Their strategy of armed self-defense was clearly in order to protect lives and property, since the courts and law enforcement officials rarely did anything to protect Black people against racist violence. Even though the non-violence seemed foolish at the time, it worked to their advantage most of the time. Showing the violence towards non threatening adults and even children, showed the world how disgusting white America was, and finally the government stepped in.
Three weeks after Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Los Angeles, California, the Civil Rights Act passed. It forced Congress to actually do something about the mistreatment of Black people. So, we now know that change can happen without the full use of violence, but we are still facing the ugliness or racism in this country today. Is it because it’s engrained in our American laws and American foundations or is it because there are a big number of racist people that refuse to help this country change; or both?
In America, we have police officers still shooting unarmed Black men, jails full of people of color imprisoned for petty crimes and some wrongfully imprisoned. We have cities designed to separate Black and brown individuals from whites systemically. America still has the same ugly tactics, just not as obvious as it was 100 years ago.
Luckily for us, we have companies like the NAACP,, The American Civil Liberties Union, Advancement Project, Color Of Change, and other organizations dedicated to fight for Black rights. The equality here in America will never be achieved by just one individual, but it will have to be tackled by the people, including help from organizations like these. It is important for you as an individual to find what is important to you, something you believe in, and pitch in. Whether you volunteer or make it a career, your actions will help us get us closer to that equality Dr. King fought for.
Racial supremacy is a disease that plagues the American democracy heavily, and those of us that want peace are stuck in the middle. Dr. King would be disappointed at how slow our progress has been in America, and yet he would still advise us that we have to keep working and keep going to get the America we all were promised.
We have to remind America that now is the time, not tomorrow, not next week, or next month but right now. With social media giving us greater access to the world and the ability to actually have our voices heard loudly, we should be making faster and greater success. In some ways we are, with the Black Lives Matter movement, we had other countries marching for Black rights, not just in America.
People are coming together filming police abuse, calling police stations demanding justice, and it’s working. The problem is the amount of push we have to do to get that justice. For example, Ahmaud Aubrey, a 25 year old Black man from Georgia, U.S., was jogging in his own neighborhood where he was chased and gunned down by three white men in early 2020. In an uncommon turn of events, the judge sentenced all three men to hefty prison sentences, but not until after high profile lawyers took over the case, millions of angry citizens protested and the case received heavy social media attention. Can you imagine how many Black men have been wronged in this way and never saw that kind of justice? It goes far deeper than any one individual, but laws and our government stepping in to investigate the corrupt police stations along with the officers and judges. That in itself is even hard to do because of all the hoops they put investigators through.
Although Dr. King focused on Black rights, he truly meant equality for everyone because there was inequality everywhere with women, poor whites, and homosexuals.
People that are holding this inequality over everyone’s heads know who they are and so do the organizations that fight for us, the problem is the citizens don’t know. To us, it could be anyone in a higher power. But our government is not the only one responsible for our freedom, we have to continue to fight for what we deserve in this country, holding them and everyone else accountable. Yes, we have more rights than we have had before; Black people can walk anywhere they want (legally), eat at whatever restaurant, drink out of whatever fountain, vote, etc. But, there are still hidden agendas in place, hidden racism surrounding us, bogus laws keeping Black people trapped in an unfair cycle.
Did you know that weeks before he was assassinated, Dr. King was putting together a campaign focusing on lack of education, unfair job opportunities, poor housing, and how to help families and mental health disorders called the “Poor People’s Campaign?”
What does that tell you about this country? What kind of country would get rid of a man that wanted to do nothing but heal everyone? These kinds of people do not speak for everyone and there are plenty of American citizens that wanted exactly what Dr. King preached, even today. Probably more so now than ever.
Each and everyone of us needs to take responsibility and add love not hate to this world, be compassionate for each other, do not ignore the hate around us but do what we can to change it, and try our best not to add to the ugliness that is still infecting this country. As we remember Dr. King this holiday, remember these things, remember his words, and remember we are all human beings that bleed and feel the same and for the most part, we all want to live a life in peace. Those that do not want peace need to see that they are not the majority.
Let peace and love be the majority. Let us all be one in this beautiful country, respecting each other’s culture and remembering Dr. King’s fight for us and his legacy forever lasting.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.