Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (March On Washington 1963)
As I think about the recent history of America and Dr. King’s legacy, I realize that not much has has changed in the 54 years since his famous “I Have a Dream” Speech. Over the years since his death, it is unfortunate to see the whitewashing and watering down that has been done this powerful and profound civil rights figure. In honor of #Reclaim MLK day and respecting his entire legacy, the one that tells us not to “sit down,” not to get too comfortable, but to keep pressing, I would am sharing some of Dr. Kings quotes beyond “I have a dream.”
“So don’t go out this morning with any illusions. Don’t go back into your homes and around Montgomery thinking that the Montgomery City Commission and that all of the forces in the leadership of the South will eventually work out this thing for Negroes, it’s going to work out; it’s going to roll in on the wheels of inevitability. If we wait for it to work itself out, it will never be worked out. Freedom only comes through persistent revolt, through persistent agitation, through persistently rising up against the system of evil. The bus protest is just the beginning. Buses are integrated in Montgomery, but that is just the beginning. And don’t sit down and do nothing now because the buses are integrated, because, if you stop now, we will be in the dungeons of segregation and discrimination for another hundred years, and our children and our children’s children will suffer all of the bondage that we have lived under for years. It never comes voluntarily. We’ve got to keep on keeping on in order to gain freedom. It never comes like that. It would be fortunate if the people in power had sense enough to go on and give up, but they don’t do it like that. It is not done voluntarily, but it is done through the pressure that comes about from people who are oppressed.”
[Delivered at funeral service for three of the children—Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, and Cynthia Diane Wesley—killed in the bombing. A separate service was held for the fourth victim, Carole Robertson.]
“These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.
“And yet they died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician [Audience:] (Yeah) who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats (Yeah) and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans. (Speak) They have something to say to every Negro (Yeah) who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.”
“It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”
The nation has not changed much since 1963. True freedom has not yet been attained. Black Americans still face police brutality, unemployment, and race based discrimination at an alarmingly high rate. Just because a few of us have “made it” in the eyes of today’s lost culture, it does not mean that we truly have arrived at the place for which our forefathers such as Dr. King fought. Dr. King had a dream, his dream has not been fulfilled. In order to fulfill it, we must reflect upon his words that are often not mentioned- change comes through revolt and pressure. Now is not the time to stop. Now is not the time to sit down because we think we can sit anywhere we choose. The fact that we can have situations such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner is recent proof that we must continue the fight.