In light of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, I wanted to pause and address what Black America looks like today versus when Dr. King was alive.
I believe, from the things that I have heard and read about Dr. King, that he wanted justice in America for Black people. I believe that he wanted us to have the basic human rights that were afforded to other people groups in this nation. I am convinced that he was not looking for a handout, just a fair chance.
One of the first words that comes to mind when I think of Martin King is nonviolent. He strove to protest the treatment of Black Americans in a way that did not cause harm to those with whom he disagreed. He did not encourage our people to burn down neighborhoods, or go on shooting rampages. He did not encourage using physical weapons at all. I think of the Apostle Paul, who said “…For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds…” (2 Corinthians 10:4). I believe that Martin King probably spent a lot of time in prayer to that end. He was the third Black American to receive the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, and only the twelfth American. He was only 35 years old, which also made him the youngest recipient at that time. The Nobel Peace Prize is accompanied by a financial gift, which I have read, King donated to various charitable organizations. I believe that he had a compassionate, servant’s heart.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born Michael Luther King, Jr. on January 15, 1929, to Michael Luther King, Sr. and his wife, Alberta Williams King. Michael King, Sr., a Baptist pastor, legally changed his and his son’s name to Martin in honor of Martin Luther, the 16th century Protestant Reformation leader. What a fitting tribute to a man who changed the course of Christianity bestowed upon a man who would change the course of human history.
Being a pastor’s son, Martin King did not feel the full weight of the economic depravity born in the Great Depression. His father’s position shielded him from that; however, that did not make the Kings immune to their surroundings. One of the things I most admire about them is their fierce determination to become educated. At 15 years old, Martin King enrolled in Morehouse College. I read that he initially did not want to become a pastor because he was embarrassed by the emotionalism of the Black church. Martin King graduated from Morehouse after only three years. It is my understanding that he was an exceptional student. That makes perfect sense, if he was able to graduate in three years. He then received a fellowship for graduate studies at Boston University, and he also took classes at Harvard. Martin Luther King, Jr. was no dummy. He was a hard worker who obviously had a standard. He completed his doctorate in June 1955, and the rest, as they say, is history.
We have all heard the struggles that Martin King faced. He took a leadership position in the year-long boycott of the Montgomery bus system. He was arrested during that time, his home was bombed twice, and his life was threatened repeatedly. While on a promotional tour for the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference and his autobiographical book, “Stride Toward Freedom”, he was stabbed by a mentally challenged Black woman. He was arrested during the 1963 Birmingham march, and this event, amongst others, led to the publishing of his book “Why We Can’t Wait”. Then, in 1963, King led the March on Washington, where a reported 60,000 whites showed up in support of civil rights for Blacks. He delivered his now-famous “I Have A Dream” speech, and was chosen “Man of The Year” by Time magazine. King was vehemently opposed to the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, which proved to warrant his skepticism. He was in the process of organizing another march on Washington called the “Poor People’s Campaign”, which would call attention to the government’s lack of response to those living under the poverty level. During this time, he accepted an invitation to come to Memphis, Tennessee to assist in the sanitation workers’ protest for better working conditions. On King’s initial trip to Memphis, local gangs rioted and there was much violence. Of course, King was opposed to violence, so he returned to Memphis to lead a peaceful protest. It was there, where a 39-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered on April 4, 1968 on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
King’s work and legacy did not die with him. President Jimmy Carter awarded King with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the King holiday, celebrating his birth on the third Monday of January. The first legal holiday was celebrated in 1986, but it would take 14 years for every state to recognize the holiday.
King’s legacy is one that has been marred tragically by the community for which he literally gave his life. No longer are we “non-violent”. The streets of Black America are full of gangs, drug dealers, and thieves who are ready in an instant to violently overtake anything or anyone with who they disagree. I feel safe assuming that this is not the legacy that King wanted to leave for America. I do not believe that he sacrificed his safety and the safety of his family all those years to give us the right to have gangs terrorize the streets of America. I do not think that he sacrificed all that he did for the rights of young black men to embarrass themselves and others by hanging out on street corners, with their pants hanging down underneath their gluteus maximus, tattooed beyond recognition, while fathering children for whom they provide no spiritual, moral, or financial support. I do not believe that he sacrificed his safety so that the prisons in America could fill themselves up with young Black men who have nothing better to do than get themselves in some kind of trouble, only to have their mothers snot and cry in the courtroom claiming that her son is a “good boy”. I do not believe that he sacrificed his safety so that Black America could become self-righteous in its dealings, justifying every sin by claiming racial bias. I do not believe that he would have sanctioned the desecration of the Black community by the high numbers of abortions performed on us in this country. I also do not believe that King would have defined marriage as anything other than one man and one woman for life. I feel strongly that he would have withdrawn his support from any man or woman who ran on a platform that stated otherwise.
King was an educated man. He studied at some of the most prestigious schools in the country. Not only was he a student, but he was a good student. He graduated college in three years. Rarely do we hear of that happening at all, let alone in the Black community. He was reluctant to go to a religious institution because of his embarrassment over the hysteria of the Black church. There would be few, if any, in the Black community who would acknowledge this, much less agree with it. King, however, was spot-on with his hesitation. The Black church centers its “gospel” on things that are not taught in scripture. The Black church primarily teaches a “feel-good” gospel; one where you can “have what you say”, “when the praises go up, the blessings come down”, and everyone is going to either be millionaire someday or they are going to soon get a new house, new job, or new car. There is very little study of scripture within the Black church, and the ones who do study scripture typically cannot remain in the Black church. I know that is true because I am one of them.
King led protest marches for the rights and justices that he felt Blacks should have. By doing so, he left a legacy of ambition: when you want something badly enough, you have to go out and fight for it. He did not take the easy way out, which is the montra of the Black community today. No longer are we willing to work for what we want; we are willing to settle for a government handout. We claim that we hate the slavery that our ancestors were forced to endure, but at the same time, we are willing to be enslaved to welfare and food stamps. We claim that we want our children to be proud of their history and themselves, but we neglect to teach them their history and we certainly do not exemplify anything in which they should be proud. We have a terrible habit of blaming everything on “the white man”, when in essence, the blame lies within ourselves.
I was unaware that King authored several books until I began reading up on his history in order to properly represent him in this blog post. That information is not shared with the general public by the mainstream media, because after all, who would want to read a book? We would rather speculate on what we THINK he would have done in today’s society, rather than pick up one of his books and actually read his position on the issues in his own words. There is an old joke about us that is really more sad than funny, but I will admit that I think it all the time, and sometimes I even say it aloud: if you want to hide something from a Black person, put it in a book. Like I said, more sad than funny.
Time magazine recognized King as the “Man of The Year” in 1963. It was President Jimmy Carter who awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and it was President Ronald Reagan who ultimately signed into law the King holiday. It looks like “the white man” may not be as bad as we portray him. These men acknowledged King’s efforts by honoring him in a very fitting manner. I think that King would have been humbled at the honor bestowed upon him by two presidents. I also think that King would have been equally embarrassed by the lack of self-respect, self-control and dignity that is present within our community.
I sincerely believe that his life and legacy have been marred not only by the aforementioned atrocities in our community, but I think his memory has been smeared by the likes of those who call themselves civil rights activists in the 21st century. As far as I am concerned, the NAACP should disband. No longer is it the institution that works for equality and freedom for people of color, but it has become an organization of ambulance chasers and opportunists who seek their own 15 minutes of fame. How tragic that the North Carolina branch of the NAACP found itself on the wrong side of the scandal that broke out at Duke University when a Black woman lied on members of a sporting team, costing them their final years of study at one of the most prestigious institutions in the state. Equally tragic was the involvement of local NAACP chapters in the protests labeled “Moral Monday”, where a bunch of liberals interrupted numerous workdays at the state legislature building, to protest something that has been designed for the good of all citizens. The NAACP shows up at the worst time, in the worst place, spouting the worst rhetoric, inciting the name of Martin Luther King to give itself credence. How tragic.
If Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today, I would thank him for all that he persevered for the civil rights of Americans. I would also apologize to him for the embarrassment that I am sure he would have suffered seeing the route that the “African Americans” (which, I don’t know why anyone would use that term unless they were actually BORN in Africa, and became an American citizen) have chosen to take. I would also ask him to pray, as I do, for the future of not only Black America, but America in general…because this is not the America about which Dr. King had a dream.