What Would MLK Think of Today’s Society?
By Tom Anselm
Another Black History Month draws to a close as I write this. In my wanderings around various schools as a substitute teacher, I find posters and saying on the walls of the halls and classrooms from famous African Americans, hear announcements from the office to commemorate the theme, listen to music from the great artists of that race.
The other day, one of the teachers was doing an analysis of the famous Martin Luther King, Jr. “I have a dream” speech that he delivered in 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the day of The March on Washington. And I wondered, as many others have since his passing, just what he would think of our society today.
Many writers on this subject suggest he would have mixed feelings. There would be the satisfaction in the rise of great numbers of blackpeople to middle and upper-middle class status, the achievement of many into the professions of medicine, law, business and academia. He would be proud of the election of a president with African American heritage. However, they also suggest, Dr. King would be dismayed and saddened by the violence that plagues black communities and the daily death of youth who have taken the path of self-destruction. He would continue to hunger for even greater economic opportunities, such that the poverty that feeds this violence could be abated.
And I feel there are more things he would be thinking. He preached equality and unity, and my guess is that he would be appalled at the divisions in our nation, and incensed at the way political parties have co-opted and perverted the concept of integration into a new form of segregation, one in which we “take sides” so much more now, rather than look for ways to cross bridges.
And I would lay odds that, as a minister, he would join with his niece, Dr, Alveda King, in opposition to the high relative rate of abortion among black women, a rate that has prompted her to state that “the most dangerous place for a black woman is in the womb.”
I must say that I do see many instances of one of his hopes coming true. In that speech, he said that he looked forward to the day when “little black boys and little black girls will join hands with little white boys and little white girls.” I see it in the schools, in the youth groups and on the fields and courts of our community. But as for judging people not “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”, well, I’m afraid we are being led in the opposite direction by national leaders who all should know better. And shame on them for that.
Now as you know, we are blessed with a bunch of grandkids, and they are constantly providing me with quotes, some of which find their way onto these pages. And sure to that, 6-year-old Ella tossed out a gem when back in January her mom asked her and her sisters if anyone knew anything about Martin Luther King.
“Well, I do,” she offered. “He fought so white people and black people and peach people could be friends.” Mom Allison asked “Well, who is peach?”
And Ella, with tan-toned skin like her mothers, piped up, “Well, I am.” “Then what are your sisters?” said mom, referring to Emma and Abby, who are of a more alabaster hue.
“They’re white. Back then, we couldn’t be friends with them, mom,” said Ella, solemnly.
I am humbled by the Ella’s and Elise’s and other innocents who seem to know the way. I hope they can hold on to this as they face life’s challenges.
Maybe it will just be up to our grandkids to get this right.
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