WHAT DOES MLK DAY MEAN FOR AMERICA NOW?
By: Jeremiah Johnson
“I must confess that that dream that I had that day has in many points turned into a nightmare.” –Dr. King
Today some of us celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his role in aiding the black community in the continuing struggle of inequality faced in America. Some are happy that they receive a day off from school or work, and others completely disregard this day entirely still going to school carrying about their days as if the struggle of racism in America has vanished all together.
White America tried to fix it. Made his birthday a national holiday, put him on a pedestal so that we can honor him, and his legacy. But one can not help but to think as to why King? Well the answer seems to lie in his ideology that they want you to believe in. That of a non-violent nature, with him and his followers hoping that America would wake from its demonic state of hatred towards the black community and have humanity towards its darker citizens.
It is important to realize that there was more to Dr. King than his “I have a Dream Speech.” Everything seems fine now, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, A black president! This is why white people have a hard time understanding why so many black people are still angry while others have given up hope altogether.
White society itself was not developed through non-violence, rather centuries of kidnapping, torture, murder and rape. Broken teeth, broken bones and broken spirits. Families ripped apart. Children taken from their parents, men humiliated in front of their wives. Women brutalized in front of their husbands. Beatings to sleep on bare wooden floors, no doctors, dentists, nothing. Just misery and a few hymns on a Sunday. Although blacks were freed from the physical bondages of slavery they had received no land to make their freedom mean anything. Instead they were given freedom and famine at the same time. An entire society was built on these bruised and broken backs but blacks are told, “get over it” the same thing they are told about the newly elected president Trump.
Despite passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, states found ways to disenfranchise blacks. They took back the vote, cordoned blacks off in the most undesirable parts of the cities, forced them into inferior schools and denied them opportunities. Few blacks owned their homes. Many could not read and write. Thousands were lynched. That’s Southern for murdered without a trial. When the Supreme court finally struck down “separate but equal” American solemnly obeyed this decision before schools could become integrated.
Many white parents simply placed their children in private schools. Then later when progressive whites were able to implement modest corrective measures to offset centuries of state sponsored terrorism, a Supreme Court of eight privileged white and one black struck them down as reverse discrimination.
So what does Martin Luther King Jr. Day mean for America now? I believe it still serves as a chance to engage in those tough conversations about race, to learn, unlearn and grow. Figure out more ways to advance the struggle as well as critique and understand the methods before us and understand that other views about the struggle and direction of the black community existed at the same time and still can exist at the same time. That Martin Luther King Jr. did not act alone, and that each of us have roles in advancing the struggle no matter how big or small. A chance to figure out what direction we want to take America or allow it to go in. An opportunity to educate and enlighten the youth, our peers and even our seniors of the ongoing complexities we continue to face on the path of true equality.
Are blacks and whites doomed to live only parallel lives with a great chasm forever separating us? Not necessarily. White people could also rise to the occasion. They could perform the first and more fundamental act of love instead of saying get over it.
They could listen.
“As long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.” –Dr.King