The life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is universally recognized as having been remarkably inspirational. The world recognizes that the beacon of his life expands beyond geographic boundaries. Our community has come to honor the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday as a day to celebrate his message of peace and human dignity – an immortal message that is proving itself to be transgenerational. In that spirit, this year, as in years past, many of us found a variety of activities designed to honor and commemorate his life and works.
This MLK Birthday, I celebrated with hundreds of others. We reveled in song and a sincere spirit of unity. We listened to eloquent speakers who spoke to the virtues and accomplishments of Dr. King. The joy and enthusiasm of the assemblage was clearly apparent, but I felt something was missing.
We had clearly celebrated Dr. King as a “drum major for justice,” but we had failed to elevate him to the position he most often occupied, leading the Vanguard against the evils of racism, discrimination and exploitation. While I know that this was not the case in all observances, one instance of this omission is one too many. I find no fault in the feel-good spirit of our observances, but we must never forget or omit the fact that, although peaceful, Dr. King was a relentless warrior against injustice.
In our current national emergency of corruption and divisiveness, I can only believe that Dr. King would be in the forefront of sounding the alarm for action. I believe that he would be proactive in the fight against the current occupant of the White House and his Wild, Wild West administration. Even in his most generous disposition, I cannot see Dr. King tolerating the volume of lies that negatively affect the lives of millions of Americans. Chief among them is 45’s ego-based opposition to everything Obama, especially the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which, most notably, provides health insurance for millions and protects insurance eligibility for preexisting medical conditions.
Many of us forget or ignore that before his assassination in Memphis, Dr. King was in the midst of an economic campaign for fair wages for city garbage collectors. I cannot be convinced that today he would not be leading a campaign against income inequity and for a living wage for minimum wage workers. He understood that the consequences of low wages and poverty led to self-perpetuating social disparities.
I am sure that Dr. King would place great emphasis on issues of voting rights. He, like most who pay attention, would know that the current trend of voter suppression is the only option for a political party that cannot achieve policy objectives by allowing free, fair and open elections. He would be vigorous in his vocal protest of gerrymandering, closing polling places, purging voter lists and other pernicious methods of suppression.
I can see him as benignly unforgiving of those who would relinquish their right to vote with the excuse, “My vote won’t count anyway.”
To the satisfaction of a majority of Americans, I can see Dr. King promoting a thorough and complete impeachment trial of 45. He would recognize the threat of the current administration to our constitutional way of life and guarantees. He would perceive the running-amok, do-Trump’s-bidding Republican Senate led by “Moscow Mitch” McConnell as a clear and present danger to our democracy.
If he could speak to us from his rest, I believe Dr. King would admonish us as he did in life: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
Williams is national president of the National Congress of Black Women.