What Would Dr. King Say About Our Current State?
1 year ago
MLK's memorial dedication highlighted his highs and our lows
“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream” (1963)
The dedication for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial started early. Little girls stumbling as they wiped the sleep from their eyes, early. Dads yawing so wide the path in front of them disappeared, early. But exhaustion was no match for their joy. With all the smiling and handshaking going on, you would swear you were at church, welcoming the visitors after the morning’s announcements. But if you closed your eyes and listened, you would think you’d landed at a campaign event. We might have been there to honor the legacy of a black leader of days gone by, but the legacy of the black leader of today loomed large.
To listen to the talking heads, the folks who supported President Obama during his first run have defected in the wake of 16% black unemployment and a ten-year war. But the crowd gathered on the Mall didn’t see that cable news show, as chants of “Four more years!” broke out whenever the POTUS was mentioned.
In his remarks, NAACP Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond asked “What would Dr. King think about our world today?” What would this man, who said in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy,” think of the progress America has made since the first black president was elected in 2008?
Most of the day’s speakers had opinions on the matter. Many thought Dr. King would cheer on the Occupy Wall Street protesters, as they use nonviolent means to make a point (however nascent that point may be). Reverend Al Sharpton said he’d think justice had been contorted when a man could be executed on recanted evidence. Reverend Jesse Jackson felt MLK would be sad in the face of expensive wars, concentrated wealth living next door to extreme poverty, and jobs leaving American soil.