Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why is it important that we remember the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?

He died 45 years ago today.  He stood on the pinnacle of a new movement – a campaign to raise consideration to the needs of poor people.  He died after a message about viewing the world from a mountaintop. 

What have we learned since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?
His birthday has become a symbol of national unity.  Each year, we gather to remember a message about a dream, sing songs from the movement, and give thanks for the amazing progress made since he was shot at a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.

There’s a monument on the Capitol Mall to remind us he was there.  People flood the national capitol to see the image of the man who inspired us with his baritone voice and command of the English language.  We’re reminded of his insight, commitment, and sacrifice for a people who needed more than lip service about what it takes to find a way to the road to the American Dream.
So much of the public discourse regarding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is mingled from a historical context that seems so long ago.  We make it a distant memory – one lived by ancestors long dead.  We forget the contributions of those still walking in the shadow of today’s madness.  The footprints of what killed Dr. King are still visible to those willing to gaze deeper into the lives of those singing songs about overcoming.

The King Holiday has become America’s stamp of redemption.  It was Congress’s bailout for agony created by the white men who rule the national agenda.  The date on our national calendar serves as a universal hush to what continues to haunt our national consciousness.  Was it enough to wash the bloody hands of those who pushed legislation to keep people oppressed based on the condition of their birth?  Has the game of privilege ended now that there is a day to celebrate our national claim of unity?
If the birth of Dr. King serves to remind us of our nation’s possibility, the death of King reminds us of our persisting reality.  There is a malicious evil that clutches the soul of far too many. There is a hate that breathes like the seconds before death.  There are enraging thoughts locked in the minds of those nurtured in cultures that refuse to see the humanity of those made different by birth.

Far too many still hate.
It’s the death of Dr. King that hurls on the perturbing ways of those who refuse to listen.  King’s death exposes the anger of those Hell bent on destroying anything that fits within the box of their indifference.  King’s death unveils those who hate to hate. They hate for the sake of hate.  They refuse to abandon the language of old memories.  They are found bankrupt of the ability to move beyond the errors of our national past.

King’s death reminds us of their continued presence.
They are with us still.  They are walking among us in wait of opportunities to rid others of their hope.  Where can you find them?

They hung the Confederate flag in the old North Carolina State Capitol building to remind citizens of their history.  It was a reminder of a war between the North and South.  For citizens with the blood of former slaves, it was a reminder of a life of bondage, rape and a life devoid of Constitutional rights. 
They are pressing new laws to force voter identification.  Those laws take us back to the days of poll taxes, a ploy to deny the vote of those within despised demographics. 

They have passed laws that limit the amount one can receive in unemployment insurance.  They pass laws to starve those already too weak to climb to the table to eat.  What more can they take?
They push for an amendment to the state Constitution that defines marriage as a bond between a man and a woman.  They manipulate the teachings of their religion to force a state ban on love between people of the same gender. What’s love got to do with it?

They use the rhetoric of deficient spending to contrive a scheme to crush the state’s historical black colleges and universities.  They use gobbledygook of poor academic performance to systematically undo the public education system by privatizing it through a business model called charter schools.  They endorse the re-segregation of public education by playing on the fear of parents by promoting puffery regarding the rise of gangs and crime among black and brown youth.
Yes, they press propaganda that spreads the gossip of a coming Armageddon. They want us to go back to the days of Dixie.

They continue to seek ways to disenfranchise citizens and redefine the meaning of King’s dream.  King’s death is a reminder that they still live.  They are obsessed with turning the clock back to days when Dixie was whistled.  They fight to define citizenship in a way that makes white skin a prerequisite. They, those white, Republicans who own state government, are working fiercely to take us back to the days when white men ruled, women stayed in their place as housewives, the word faggot was commonly used, black folks honored and respected all things white, and those South of the border went home after the harvesting of crops.
King’s death reminds us of the rancor that led to his death.  Rifles and bullets have been replaced with a political agenda that fights the coming of the new majority.  The death of King still aches.  The blows of the bullets haunt us still.

What’s the lesson of King’s life? Remember it. Yes, celebrate the birth of the dream.  Gather and sing old songs about overcoming someday. Do that. Embrace that. His life is worth the reminder of his contribution.
But, don’t forget his death.  If we do, his life will be in vain.

1 comment:

  1. The assassination of Dr. King must serve as a reminder that those who challenge an unjust, oppressive, racist system become targets. Therefore, we must all find the courage to demand that this country live up to the promise of equality and justice for all its citizens.