This year on January 16, 2017 we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for his remarkable contributions not only for African- American but for all mankind. Dr. King was a true humanitarian. His selfless acts along with others provide me with opportunities that most likely I would not have without their stance, blood sweat and tears. If Dr. King were still alive he would celebrate his 88th birthday this year. Below is an abridged version of an article by the Huffington Post authored by Clarence B. Jones about Dr. King and what he might have done to deal with current issues:
Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on His 86th Birthday
This weekend our nation will observe its annual commemoration of this great man’s life. It comes at a time when national and international events have provoked a lot of discussion about what Dr. King would say or do in response to those events if he were alive today.
An entire generation of Americans has grown up associating Dr. King almost exclusively with his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech (which I copyrighted; it is now one of the most valuable intellectual properties of the King estate). Few people today know of his opinions on issues like poverty and income inequality, or of his early support for Israel and his public opposition to the war in Vietnam.
Although I have no polling data to support my belief, I estimate that he enjoyed an approval rating of 80 percent or higher at the time of his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, but that his approval rating had probably dipped to 40 percent or lower by the time he was assassinated five years later.
This blog post addresses some of the important contemporary domestic and international issues that I believe would be of major concern to Dr. King if he were alive today. My statements are not based on what I have read or on what some third party told me. They are based on my personal recollections of conversations and discussions I had with Dr. King one-on-one, and of conversations we had together with third parties, over the approximately seven years I worked with him as a political advisor, personal lawyer and draft speechwriter.
The night before he was assassinated, Dr. King spoke at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, before a large gathering in support of a strike by sanitation workers for better wages and working conditions. Among other things he said:
We’ve got some difficult days ahead. … Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I am not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.
The contemporary issues that I believe would be of primary concern to Dr. King today, issues that challenge the coalition of support he enjoyed at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and threaten our ability to get to that Promised Land, are (in no particular order):
Systemic and growing poverty among a significant segment of the population.
Dr. King would regard systemic poverty in the United States as morally indefensible and unacceptable. He would publicly align himself with Pope Francis, who, in an address to the students of the Jesuit schools of Italy and Albania on June 7, 2013, said:
The poverty of the world is a scandal. In a world where there is such great wealth, so many resources for giving food to everyone, it is impossible to understand how there could be so many hungry children, so many children without education, so many poor people! Poverty today is a cry. A few weeks later, in an address to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on June 20, 2013, Pope Francis added: A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being.
Dr. King would closely examine the amount of money expended on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the cost of maintaining our military bases around the world and compare those expenditures with those allocated toward reducing poverty, increasing affordable housing, and creating employment opportunities. He would put forward an updated version of his “bill of rights for the disadvantaged,” which he proposed as early as 1964. In November 1967 he wrote:
[O]ur country must undergo a revolution in values. The billions of dollars now directed toward destruction and military containment must be redirected toward a bill of rights for the disadvantaged. Such a bill of rights should provide an adequate education, income, home, recreation, as well as physical and mental health care.
Ubiquitous gun violence.
This year firearms are expected to surpass automobiles as the leading cause of death in the United States. Nationwide, young black men have the highest firearm mortality rate; the overwhelming majority of these firearm deaths were from homicides perpetrated by other black men. Dr. King would be forceful in speaking out on the reality of gun violence among young black men.
Efforts to limit voting rights by the U.S. Supreme Court and various state legislatures.
Dr. King would initiate a national campaign to restore the enforceability of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires that certain states and local governments get permission, or “preclearance,” from the federal government before enacting any change to voting laws or practices. As of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County vs. Holder on June 25, 2013, which declared Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act (the section containing the “coverage formula” that determined which states and local governments would be subject to the Section 5 preclearance requirement) unconstitutional, there is no way to enforce Section 5, and many states that would have been subject to the preclearance requirement have since enacted laws restricting voting. In those states Dr. King would seek to mobilize mass support for removing such restrictions.
Continuing police shootings of unarmed black men.
Dr. King would respect, applaud, support, and join the new generation of young people who are forcefully but nonviolently calling for an end of the disproportionate use of excessive force against young African-American men by police officers. He would participate in relevant demonstrations in Ferguson and elsewhere as long as they remained nonviolent. He would say not only that black lives matter but that all lives matter. He would declare that police shootings of unarmed black men require not “negotiation” but immediate cessation. He would say, “Stop killing our young people! They are the most sacred and precious asset we have as a people.”
Mass incarceration of black youth.
According to legal scholar Michelle Alexander, in some inner-city communities four out of five black youths can expect to be incarcerated at some point in their lifetimes. Alexander elaborates in her 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:
The mass incarceration of people of color is a big part of the reason that a black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born in slavery. … More black men are imprisoned today than at any other moment in our nation’s history. More are disenfranchised today that in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.
The above statements are not intended to be definitive claims regarding what Dr. King would actually say or do today. They are intended solely as projections of what I believe he would say or do today were he alive to celebrate his 86th birthday.
Martin, we miss you.