“A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back – but they are gone. It is up to us. It is up to you.” – Marian Wright Edelman
I saw this quote on Facebook a couple days after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. The quote made me think about what would MLK, Jr. be doing and saying about current events. I have read and/or listened to many of Martin’s writings and speeches, so I could (I hope) reasonably extrapolate his views.
Of course, it’s difficult to ascertain what his impact on society and the culture would be had he survived. Maybe progress in some areas would have happened sooner; maybe he would have been rendered largely irrelevant. That’s the thing about those who die, especially those who die relatively young; they are frozen in time.
Maybe, instead of him dying in 1968, I should imagine that he was traveling to another planet and finally made it back, this century.
The overriding issue for Martin Luther King was always justice. He would fret over the continuing divide of wealth between white Americans and those who are black and Hispanic. At the end of his life, MLK was increasingly aware of class distinctions. He would be equally concerned about the inequity of income that has developed regardless of race, especially over the past thirty years; he would be challenging the 1% for sure. He would be a proponent of equal pay for women.
Obviously, heinous acts of brutality are distressing to him. But he would also address the culture of violence that leads to such unthinkable acts. He would surely talk about the awful tumult that takes place every day in the United States that DOESN’T make the headlines.
He would oppose the death penalty. Not only did he not believe in “an eye for an eye,” but he would despair of the imbalance of people of color incarcerated and on death row across the country, disproportionate to the number of crimes committed.
MLK came to oppose the Vietnam war by 1967. Surely, he would have opposed the Iraq war as unjustified, even before it actually started in 2003. The current wars, particularly the use of drones, would break his heart.
Martin would undoubtedly be pleased, and possibly surprised, that an African-American had been elected President, but would suggest that we have not yet reached “the promised land.”