Image courtesy of Historical Stock Photo
I spent a fair amount of Monday, Dr. King’s Day, reading and listening to his words. I couldn’t help but wonder what would he think now.
If Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had not been gunned down in Memphis on April 4th, 1968; on Thursday, January 15th he would have celebrated his 86th birthday. I imagine like any octogenarian on the occasion of his 86th birthday, he would pause and reflect not only on himself, his family, his life but also on the state of affairs of his country, his people whom he served and the nation he served by being the voice and catalyst for change.
I imagine he would assess just exactly how far we have come since he planted the seeds of the American Civil Rights movement from his basement office at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church all those years ago.
As I reflect on what Dr. King’s assessment might be, I recall the Keep America Beautiful PSA from the 1970s with the image of a Native American crying on a litter strewn highway and I imagine a white haired Dr. King standing over the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial with tears falling from his eyes.
While I am confident Dr. King would acknowledge our progress since 1963 when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I imagine he would simultaneously feel disappointment and outrage at:
- how far we have not come;
- the current state of affairs in our country;
- the condition of the black man, black family and black church, and family and church in general in America;
- the struggles of the working poor in America; and
- the leadership gap that has been in existence since 1968.
I imagine he would denounce race baiters no matter the color of their skin.
I imagine he would denounce those that would have us believe that protesting the death of young black men whether by an overzealous cop or out-of-control neighborhood watch patroller is the same as cop hating.
I imagine he would remind us that you can stand up and speak out against injustice while respecting law enforcement. I imagine he would teach us that these two actions or beliefs are not mutually exclusive.
I imagine he would acknowledge that there are black men (and women) serving our nation as government officials in town halls, city halls and state houses all across our great nation as well as the two chambers of the United States Congress and the White House.
I imagine, at the same time, he would acknowledge the factor that skin pigmentation can still play a role in terms of success, politically and otherwise.
I imagine he would rejoice over the seat at the table being filled by able black men and women.
I imagine he would be alarmed at the school to prison pipeline that exists for poor men of color in this country. From detention hall to juvenile hall to maximum security is the trajectory far too many black men in our country are relegated to follow.
I imagine he would cry for our children who do not enjoy safe passage to and from school. Chicago, I imagine he would take back your streets at the start of school and at dismissal; marching with those innocent babies to and from school until someone took notice and provided all public school students safety to and from school.
I imagine he would be alarmed at the shocking rate of black on black crime.
I imagine he would be outraged at the execution of two NYC police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
I imagine he would rally and protest with the employees of Wal-Mart and fast food chains for an increase to minimum wage.
I imagine he would speak out against the long going war in Afghanistan.
I imagine he would mourn the loss of innocent lives every time our children and their teachers are attacked and killed whether in Littleton or Newtown. I imagine he would cry, mourn and pray with those communities and demand something be done to avoid such tragedy again.
I imagine he would speak out against a Congress more interested in making a sitting President look bad than in helping America and its people.
I imagine he would recoil in horror to know that the words he spoke in a 1965 interview with Alex Haley still resonate today.
It’s getting so that anybody can kill a Negro and get away with it in the South, as long as they go through the motions of a jury trial. … It must be fixed so that in the case of interracial murder, the federal government can prosecute.”
I imagine that every time our nation momentarily pauses over the death of an Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell or Amadou Diallo, Dr. King would cry with outrage at the alarming force used against black men in our society.
I imagine Dr. King would lead a national discourse on how in the words of poet, professor Javon Johnson “poor black boys are treated as problems well before we are treated as people.”
I imagine he would be taken aback by the reaction to the interracial family on the Cheerios commercial; shocked by the racist reaction but not altogether surprised.
I imagine he would applaud Cheerios for airing the commercial, pointing to it as a symbol of how far we have come but recognize that the noise of the haters signifies how much further we still have to go.
I imagine he would question the motives of a prosecutor who didn’t want to prosecute in announcing the decision of the Ferguson grand jury under the cover of darkness.
I imagine as a man of God, he would be horrified by the images coming out of the Ferguson protests.
I imagine that he would speak out against the reckless behavior of anyone chanting “Burn this bitch down” even if they were connected to the victim who did not receive justice.
I imagine that he would preach nonviolence to those crying out in protest every time there is a Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner or Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
I imagine while not agreeing with their political cartoons, he would be outraged at the attack on free speech with the killing of the Charlie Hebdo staffers in Paris and caution the world against seeking revenge against ordinary Muslim citizens.
I imagine that on the occasion of his 86th birthday if Dr. King was somehow able to view our 2015 America he would cry.
He would cry because although there has been some progress and change, there has not been enough. He would cry because beneath America’s underbelly there still exists a race war. He would cry because he can’t help thinking of all those hours he spent away from his young children that they will never get back and that the ultimate sacrifice of their lives he and others like Medgar Evers, Brother Malcolm and those with names we have long all but forgotten like Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney gave was all for naught.