Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is arguably one of the most paramount and socially respectable figures of human history. In various corners of the globe Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy is commemorated for his contributions to American society. In addition, Dr. Martin Luther King’s activism benefit African Americans contemporaneously with African Americans mobilizing up the social stratification system to become Mayors, Chief Executives of Fortune 500 Corporations, Public Administrators and receiving jobs and opportunities that would have been unequivocally impossible during Dr. Martin Luther King’s life. Dr. Martin Luther King’s relentless protesting also lead to the ascendance and election to this country’s first African American President; President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Even with the assimilability of African Americans into high places of the corporate ladder and government, we are still inflicted with persistent problems in the millennial generation. These problems do not negate, King’s contributions to society and additionally, the quintessential point of this article is that contrary to popular belief, Dr. King wasn’t just a Man with a Dream, King was a Man on a Mission.
Dr. Martin Luther King mobilized and organized activists who were exasperated and resentful towards the racism, disenfranchisement, police brutality, xenophobia, intergroup homicides, segregation and inequality affecting African Americans. What people may overlook is that Dr. Martin Luther King changed laws multiple times and enhanced the politicization of a lot of African Americans who uncompromisingly wanted equality, justice and jobs. King came to prominence after leading the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott after the courageous Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat on the front of the bus in segregated Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955. What this catalyzed to was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the year long Montgomery Bus Boycott which lead to the Browder v. Gayle decision which integrated public transportation in Alabama. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s protests and arrests in Albany, Georgia, Birmingham, Alabama, St. Augustine, Florida and Selma, Alabama motivated a lot of activists to start movements and strengthen existing movements like SNCC, CORE, the NAACP, King’s Organization; the SCLC and various other nationally. The political climate in the United States became radiant and laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act were passed. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also went on to become the second African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his efficacy in activism and his stride for freedom and justice through non-violent resistance and civil disobedience.
Non –violent resistance was a philosophy based on having the boldness to be defiant towards the racist laws and to not defend your self when you are assaulted because it exerted discipline and maturation in contrast to relegating one’s self to the level of the racialist antagonists. The political reformer Mahatma Gandhi, the political philosopher Henry Thoreau who wrote the essay on “Civil Disobedience” and white pacifists like Glenn Smiley, influenced Dr. King’s philosophy of non-violent resistance. Importantly, Dr. King was influenced by Christian principles and values of obedience to God, turning the other cheek” and changing the system through the “Power of Love.” Dr. King’s philosophy of non-violent resistance was the antithesis to Malcolm X’s approach, which was based on Black Nationalism, which means that Black people should prioritize the controlling of the politics and economics of their community besides focusing on assimilating into mainstream white America. Additionally, Malcolm X was for physical self-defense and insurrection in response to the racism that was inflicted upon Black people institutionally and inter-racially.
Contrary to popular opinion Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t just a Man with a dream of racial integration in the United States because of his eloquently disseminated speech “I Have a Dream” on August 28th, 1964 in Washington DC. Towards the later years of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, he vocalized his vehement opposition towards racism, economic injustice, militarism and imperialism. Dr. King and his fellow activists migrated in 1966 to the industrial north to Chicago, Illinois to protest against racial steering/housing segregation. This occurred due to the augmentation of Black migrations from the South to the North. These migrations lead to the suburbanization of the surrounding areas of Chicago so that the Caucasian counterparts won’t have to live in the same neighborhoods as African Americans. Additionally in 1967, King vehemently opposed the Vietnam War because it was a literal, ideological and political paradox. The reason being is because African American soldiers forcibly fought in Indo-China to liberate the Vietnamese people against the Communist Government of Vietnam for the purpose of implementing democracy, equality and justice but African Americans were being subjugated and with their civil/human rights violated in America at the expenses of tax payer’s dollars. In famous Dr. King’s speech “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam” which he delivered in Riverside Church in New York, he stated; “Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hope of the poor at home. It was sending their sons, and their brothers, and their husbands to fight and die in extraordinarily high proportion relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with a cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same school room. So we watch them in brutal solidarity, burning the huts of a poor village. But we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago or Atlanta. Now, I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.”1 Also, Dr. King was for the group economic development and racial pride for people of African descent and for the compensation of African Americans for the involuntary servitude that Black people experienced in America in addition to the perpetual injustice experienced in this country.
Dr. King lived and died for universal suffrage but primarily for social and economic justice for African American people in America. Dr. King showed solidarity with the sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee and was eventually murdered on April 4th, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel. There is a lot of controversy around his assassination because it coincided with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counter-Intelligence (COINTELPRO) of 1956 written by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover disrupt, discredit and infiltrate initially communist organizations in America to eventually, include Black organization like the Nation of Islam, the S.C.L.C. and the Black Panther Party. The exposed document stated that one of the agendas of the program was to “Prevent the RISE OF A "MESSIAH" who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement. Malcolm X might have been such a "messiah;" he is the martyr of the movement today. Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and Elijah Muhammad all aspire to this position. Elijah Muhammed is less of a threat because of his age. King could be a very real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed "obedience" to "white, liberal doctrines" (nonviolence) and embrace Black Nationalism. Carmichael has the necessary charisma to be a real threat in this way.”2 Additionally, in 1999 in a Civil Suit in Memphis, Tennessee, the United States Government’s “Agencies” were found guilty for the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.3 Henceforth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a popularly canonized and commemorated figure in American pop culture with companies capitalizing on his legacy but he evidently was a polarizing figure when he was living. King was depressed, away from his family for pivotal portions of his life and was arrested 30 times during his career of activism.4
In the 21st century revisiting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, there have been advances in occupational assimilation for African Americans but people of African descent are still economically subservient today as they were during the days of segregation. African Americans only own 2.7% of the nation’s wealth and is 13.7% of the country’s population5, African American males make up 40% of the United States’ prison population and are 6-7% of the country’s population, and police brutality is as common place now as it was in 19686. The criminalization of the race has only increased and magnified with the addition of intra-group discrimination in which people of African descent in destitute neighborhoods inflicted with poverty and desolation has turned their violence against each other in which 90% of African American homicides are from the hands of another African American.7 Also you see the enhanced vulnerability of Black people getting attacked from domestic white supremacist terrorists like the 9 African Americans who were murdered in Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Henceforth, African Americans are still suffering with Black Mayors, Black Executives, Black Millionaires and even a Black President. Dr. King and his Civil Rights counterparts like A. Phillip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, James Farmer, James Meredith, Ralph Abernathy and many others who have collectively changed laws but the axiological system of this country is still based on white supremacy, black subjugation and an inferiority complex within the African American population. We commend Dr. King for his magnanimity and courageousness but there are issues that people of African descent need to unilaterally and internally work towards to see the true fulfillment of his dream an this is ethno-cultural aggregation, economic development and intra group empowerment. I think that through job creation, innovations and prosperity within our communities, we can minimize and stabilize the wealth gap, violence and poverty within our community in the 21st century and from there, people of African descent in America will receive the respect of other ethnicities because our leverage will have enhanced socially and economically since assets are a key determining factor of power in society.
Roger Chapman and James Ciment “MLK: Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” 1967 speech was delivered, The Real News, (January 16, 2012)
Brian Glick “War at Home: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We can Do About It” South End Press Pamphlet Series (Book 6) (July 1, 1999), 78.
Calculated from the UCPD/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset and Codebook version 4-2015.
Carl Herman “Court Decision: U.S. “Government Agencies” Found Guilty in Martin Luther King’s Assassination ”. Global Research, 21st of January, 2013 available: http://time.com/3615387/tv-viewership-declining-nielsen/
Center for Global Policy Solutions “The Racial Wealth Gap: African Americans” April, 2014 available here: http://globalpolicysolutions.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/RacialWealthGap_AfricanAmericans_Final.pdf
Shara Town “Stanford Research Suggests Support for Incarceration Mirrors whites perception of black prison populations”. Stanford Report, August 6, 2014 Available herehttp://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/august/prison-black-laws-080614.html
Amy Sherman “An updated look at statistics on black on black murders”. Politifact, May 21, 2015 available here: http://www.politifact.com/florida/article/2015/may/21/updated-look-statistics-black-black-murders/
Christopher Klein “10 Things You May Not Know About Martin Luther King Jr. ”. History. 4th of April, 2013 available here: http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-martin-luther-king-jr
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