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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Status Check on the Dream (202 hits)

By
Ruben Britt, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arguably one of the most influential leaders that this country has ever produced. As a civil rights leader, he defined what it meant to live by current day democracy. The popular depiction of Dr. King today is that of an eloquent speaker and a preacher, embraced by the United States. Quite the contrary, Dr. King was the number one enemy of the government. The world over marveled at, what to do with the nonviolent protest movement he created, the use of peaceful protest as it’s “trump card” during the 1950’s turbulent civil unrest. His philosophy emerged with the backdrop of lynching’s for picnic sport of black men, women and children, Klu Klux Klan recruitment at its peak, the burning of black churches, jailing of African Americans for even having eye contact with a white and more. African Americans fought tirelessly against racial discrimination for centuries. However, during the fifties something was changing. The country seemed to be at a boiling point with the advent of the “golden age of television. The civil rights movement would now be televised. Televisions fed the conversations and highlighted the violent protest and further emphasized the dual society that would not allow black children to be educated in the same school house, prevented races from using the same drinking fountains, segregated transportation and other services.

The movement needed a leader. Thrusted into the leadership role of the civil rights movement at the young age of 26, young Martin took the baton. The onset of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 caught on like wild fire sparked by Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat to a White man. Arrested over 20 times during his short life for his civil disobedience, Martin Luther King lived constantly in a state of knowing the possibility of death was ever present for his actions. This reality could not hold him down.
Recognizing the repercussion that he and his followers would face for taking a stand against segregation, Jim Crow laws and voting rights violations, he took a stand against America’s human rights practices. Dr. King fought a color contious America that contradicted the creed “land of the free and home of the brave”. More important, the civil rights movement ignited an undertaking that spanned from nearly every corner of the country and it influenced a number of other Black organizations to take a stand as well.

Dr. King capitalized on the propaganda tool, television, using it to force change in America. Every day during the six o’clock and eleven o’clock news, television viewers saw civil rights demonstrators being beaten by police with night sticks, bitten by police dogs or sprayed by fire hoses. As a result of these horrendous imageries, Americans and the world saw the true face of what the United States of America was all about, a racist country. Dr. King’s non-violent approach forced the U.S. government into developing civil rights laws that protected Blacks, Latinos, women, and persons with disabilities along with other persons of color. Affirmative action policies were derived from the civil rights laws that was designed to eliminate Jim Crow practices in the workplace and provide opportunities for people of color, only to see White women became the major beneficiary.

April 4th of this year marked the 50th anniversary of his assassination; let us examine what has taken place since he took a stand. Blacks are able to vote throughout the country as well be involved in the political process as candidates where we saw the election of Blacks in mayoral, gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional positions, including the highest office in the country, the president of the United States. However, Black unemployment rate has consistently been twice as high as the white unemployment rate for 50 years. A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) notes that this gap hasn't closed at all since 1963. Back then, the unemployment rate was 5 percent for whites and 10.9 percent for blacks. Today, it's 6.6 percent for whites and 12.6 percent for blacks according to the Economic Policy Institute, 2013.

The media today, which was the same instrument that Dr. King utilized during the civil rights movement has painted an ugly picture of Blacks where they have become the subject to myths, flimsy traditions or negative half-truths that have become psychological chains that have shackled their lives. In 1991, the National Opinion Research Center released a study where they conducted a survey of middle class Whites on their perception of Blacks. The results of the survey were startling. 83% thought that most Blacks were poor; 62% felt that Blacks were lazy; 56% believed that Blacks were violent; 53% felt that Blacks were unintelligent; 77% believed that Blacks live off welfare and 50% believed that Blacks were unpatriotic. Those same sentiments by Whites in 1991 are still prevalent today. Every year around the time of Dr. King’s birthday, main street media only celebrates his life by referring to the one sentence of his I Have A Dream Speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”. The omission of 99% of his speech is a ploy by educational and media organizations to compress the total message of Dr. King’s speech that addressed the ills of American society which are still relevant today. What mainstream media continues to exclude are the passages from the speech that address racism, police brutality, children being robbed of their selfhood and dignity, and the contradiction of the U.S. Constitution.

Today, White privilege and entitlement remains prevalent in American culture while many Blacks have become victims of psychological slavery through negative imagery by the media, omission of historical facts in our educational system and the constant flow of guns and drugs in the community. Black lives matter have been overshadowed by the urgent cry to address the opiate epidemic, which has become a national concern because it has mostly affected White people. The crack epidemic of the 1980’s affected many Black communities throughout the country, where thousands of lives were lost, babies being born with crack addictions as a result of their parents, homes and personal possessions lost and stolen, leaving some communities alienated with high murder and crime rates never received the same attention. Many of the crack babies have grown up to have physical and psychological problems that have attributed to many of the behavior problems in Black communities that transmitted at home and in school, which led to drive by shootings and high incarceration. Also, it has transform the communities from the village concept that resembled cohesiveness and love to neighborhoods of division, hate, murder and crime. The devastation from the crack epidemic was more venomous in the Black community than the heroin epidemic of the late sixties and early seventies that was cause by the Richard Nixon administration’s ploy to slow down civil rights movement. Many Blacks today have become passive and immune to the daily murders in their communities. Black males are six percent of the U.S. population, but make up 40 percent of the prison population.

…But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: in the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

To make Dr. King’s dream relevant it is important for Blacks to conduct creative protests to combat the evil forces that have created division within their communities and the country as a whole, and not limit their protests pertaining to police killing Blacks. It is imperative for Black parents, community leaders and residents to collectively come together to create an agenda to confront systematic racism, which continues to exist in every fabric of the American society, most notably education, the media and religion. Also, Black parents must limit their children from watching television, which is another form for creating mental slavery and stress the importance of education. Secondly, teach them to take pride in themselves, their family and their community, because the habits that we cultivate in our youth will determine how we live our adult life. More important, Black children need to be taught life skills such as organization, time management and money management (What ever happened to the piggy bank?), along with the importance of activism. They need to expose their children to Black history along with the origin of the civil rights movement and the entirety of Dr. Kings “I Have A Dream Speech”. Most of this information can be obtained from their smart phones or online. They need to see the true heroes who look like them and who stood up for freedom, justice and equality. In this crucial time in America, our younger generation must be equipped to fight against racial and social injustice, and not be lulled into apathy and silence by slimy reality TV shows and negative half truths by the media, because As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Posted By: Elynor Moss
Wednesday, October 3rd 2018 at 10:39AM
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