“Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail 29 times. He was a target of FBI surveillance and intimidation. During his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” he also said, “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” Throughout his entire life, polls showed a majority of Americans did not support him or the civil rights movement at large.
We see a lot of revisionist history every MLK day, where the same forces of oppression and white supremacy that Dr. King devoted his life to dismantling share quotes and admiration. That’s why today and every day, we must honor the true legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – a Black radical who proclaimed that "we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values."
Just as MLK became increasing unpopular in his fight for racial equality through a message of morality and actions of civil disobedience - we see a similar trend today. A new uprising for racial justice was sparked after police murdered George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year. But it didn’t take long for public support for the Black Lives Matter movement to decline.
It was this historical trend that MLK called out in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, saying, “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. Tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
I often hear people wonder, “What would I do if I was alive during the Civil Rights movement?”
I was a child of the civil rights movement. I am a firm believer in the necessity and power of non-violent resistance. We have a long way to go to realize the dream that Dr. King spoke so passionately about.
We are living in the modern civil rights movement. And despite the many great leaders like Dr. King involved with the civil rights movement during the 1960s, the movement’s true power was in the collective of everyday people joining the fight. That holds true today.
So the question now is, what side of history will you be on?