Happy MLK Day: Would He Be Proud?

An African American Student’s take on Current Day Issues and MLK’s True, Full Vision.

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Olivia Marbury, Publications Editor and Publisher

The federal holiday of Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated every third Monday of January; and, as the year 2020 and presidential election is behind us – the racial tensions that have been revealed and ignited are far from over. So, with the history of segregation in America and the other deep-rooted issues that stem from the creation of our country, the question becomes: would MLK be proud of where we are? 

King’s FULL Vision. 

Segregation was the legislative and physical form of pure racism – people were seperated and not allowed to go into places just because of the color of their skin.. And it was the law. Once it was outlawed and ended, it unfortunately allowed for some to think that the issue of racism did the same. In school we only learn things that want to be taught: peaceful protest, everything’s equal, and the bad is in the past. Our education on the past and on certain issues are somewhat cherry picked. Don’t be alarmed or misunderstand, segregation was horrible. However, a lot of times when Dr. King is taught in classrooms much of what he was truly fighting for isn’t taught – which is unfortunate because we’re still fighting for it to this day: equity. 

“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. May, 1967

This is a quote you’ll probably never see in textbooks, but one that clearly outlines exactly what King’s true vision was (and how it hasn’t been achieved). 

King was against poverty and believed that as long as people were impoverished, there could never be such a thing as true wealth. How it isn’t the fact that people aren’t working long or hard enough, but that the system of capitalism is just not meant for them [the working class] to succeed. King also brings up a good point of the pure hypocrisy of America in general. How do we call ourselves the land of the free but be a militaristic country? King then introduces the idea of interconnectedness. How, everything: racism, the economy, and politics are connected to whether we as a country progress or not. 

The History of African Americans – How could We Not Feel Pride?

The dense, flat out wrong idea that I feel many unfortunately hold is that once black and white people were able to drink from the same water fountains, all “major” racial and inequality issues ended. Too many times I’ve heard the statements: “it’s not like slavery still exists” or “you guys aren’t legally unequal or segregated” used to justify the system while undermining the black experience. Ultimately, landing to the conclusion that black people are simply not working hard enough to be as successful as others. The issue with this thought process isn’t the acknowledgement of progress that has been made, but rather the ignored fact that it was the system in the first place that was and still is corrupt.

As a black woman I feel as though I’m reminded in the news, by incidents, and simply in everyday life that this country was not built with the intention of me succeeding. As black people, a lot of times there are clear reminders that this country was not made for us. A country built off of your race being enslaved usually isn’t. However, despite these constant reminders and inhumane experiences, black people have prevailed. After 400 and some years of being treated like animals and having every grain of prosperity taken away from us, nothing but hard work from generations could get African Americans to where we are today. In my opinion, it’s the greatest comeback story in history. That being said, from slavery to Jim Crow to segregation, its obvious that progress has been made and I feel as though MLK would be proud. I sure am! However pride doesn’t equate to the end of the fight for progress and equality.  

 

Sources

Quotes from Rev. Dr. King’s Last Years: “A Revolution of Values”. (2017). Retrieved 9 January 2021, from https://kairoscenter.org/quotes-from-rev-dr-kings-last-years/