Lessons Learned from a Radical King.

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann in a crowd.) - NARA - 542015 - Restorat
Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann in a crowd.) - NARA - 542015 - Restoration

Today we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, a man that changed the world through the strength of his faith and force of his love. Don’t be fooled, during the height of King’s career, there were hundreds of Civil Rights activists impacting their communities and attacking racism at its core. The story of the movement is littered with powerful women who stood just as tall as any Malcolm X or Medgar Evers; unfortunately, our history has done an exceptional job at erasing them, it’s one of the consequences of living in a country run by old white men.

They are the authors of our struggle, and with their unlimited power and propensity to sanitize the truth, along with not knowing about the sisters in the movement, we only know of one part of Dr. King’s Legacy. The fight for civil rights was not just for the opportunity to attend the same schools, or play in the same park as white people, it was a battle for the soul of America, and the country's growing infatuation with “profit lines over people.” we have had 50 years to address these issues and fallen short. If King were alive now, he would be troubled by what he saw.

The complete story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the political journey of a civil rights activist that realized having a seat at the restaurant table wasn’t very helpful, if you couldn’t afford to purchase anything off of the menu. While the movement was beginning to make progress on Jim Crow laws, many African Americans were living in abject poverty. In his final book, “Where do we go from here?” King doubled down on the need for the country to change it’s ways. Saying:

When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A civilization can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy.

It was rhetoric like this, as well as his growing anti-war stance that earned him more enemies than friends, but his words were true then and they still are now. It’s almost been 50 years since King launched the “poor people’s campaign” a fight he would not live to see to its end. And instead of addressing income inequality and poverty, our elected leaders have doubled down on the politics for the rich, and done everything in their power to erase the poor. in 2015, there were 43.1 million people in poverty, as breathtaking as 43 million sounds, it was actually an improvement, in 2014, that number was 46.6 million people. In that same year, The 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress reported that on any given night, there are 564,708 people homeless, and of that group, nearly one-quarter of all homeless people were children, under the age of 18.

The United States of America is not bankrupt, we are not struggling to pay bills, and despite the results of this election, we are one of the richest countries in the world. Poverty and income inequality continues because of a lack of will, It continues because our country is run by people who greedily quote the words of Dr. King, but do not appreciate, or believe in his principles. And while they continue to make more money than anyone ever has, people of all races, genders, and religious beliefs are forced to pick up the pieces and figure it out.

If Dr. King could return to earth for one day, to see how far this country has come, he wouldn’t be moved by his birthday being made a national holiday, he might be humbled by all of the kind speeches, and events organized in his honor, but he never fought for accolades, so that feeling would pass. He might marvel at Barack Obama, America’s first black president, but that moment of pride would follow with the realization that the rise of Donald Trump followed. In the end, he would be dismayed at the number of people without good jobs, living in poverty, and simply dying in the street. He would see a country that has gotten even richer than what it was when he lived, but has done even less to help those that can’t help themselves. He would see a failure.

Dr. King gave his life for a better world, and now more than ever, we have the power to turn his dream into a reality. It’s about time we stopped giving lip service to justice, and fought to make it a reality.

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