Junious Ricardo Stanton
“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”- Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr was murdered by government forces attempting to neutralize his influence, shut down his peace movement and destroy the objective of his Poor People’s Campaign: to funnel and redistribute funds from the war in Southeast Asia to social programs. King was a passionate proponent of love, nonviolence and virtuous civil disobedience. He became a thorn in the side of the warmongers, corporate profiteers and immoral politicians who were wedded to the status quo.
Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929 and murdered on April 4, 1968. If he were alive today what would King think of America in 2021? What would he say about the today’s America? What would he say about the obscene wealth and income gaps in this country, the growing poverty, homelessness and unemployment? What would King say about the demagoguery, the deep ideological fissures, the government gridlock, the unyielding political partisanship on all levels and the widening social divide in America in 2021? What would King say about Donald Trump’s divisive presidency or Joe Biden’s record of being pro Wall Street and warmongering? How would King, if he were still alive at ninety-two years old, address the response to COVID-19 given his familiarity with the infamous Alabama Tuskegee syphilis scandal and the government violence heaped upon him and his fellow civil rights activists in the 50’ and 60’s?
The corporate media when they mention King’s birthday always play one part of his 1963 March on Washington speech; the I have a dream refrain. They always play the “I’ve been to the mountain top” part of the last speech he gave mere hours before he was murdered in Memphis Tennessee. They never share the earlier parts, the real meat of these speeches because his words were cutting, historic and extremely pragmatic.
King was no head in the clouds dreamer when he said, “… But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”
King always emphasized the urgency of the moment. At the March on Washington he said, “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.”
What do you think King would say now about the debilitating relations between law enforcement and citizens of all colors, the militarization of the police, the shootings, the asset forfeiture and the prison industrial complex? What do you think he would say about his hard core, non-violent in your face, direct confrontation approach being high jacked and turned into an annual one and done “Day of Service” that maintains the very status quo he was trying to change?!
What would King on his ninety-second natal day say about Black “leadership” in America? Would he be pleased and proud or would he be greatly disappointed at how soft, apathetic and sedentary we have become? I for one firmly believe Martin Luther King Jr, if he were alive and of sound mind would be very frustrated. I also believe that somehow he would still be in the game, still in the fight and still moving towards the goal of peace and social and economic justice for all.