King’s message still rings true today
We’re bound to hear all sorts of interpretations today of where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream stands. One needs only look around to see that anyone who wants success can achieve it today.
The night before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., King told sanitation workers he had looked over the mountain and seen the promised land. He predicted he might not make it there, but the rest of us would. Considering the South that King worked so peacefully to transform is now the place where the one remaining black Democratic candidate for president has his first real shot at placing well in a primary, it’s hard to argue great strides haven’t been made toward racial equality. The arguments from the leaders of the current civil rights movement add to our belief that King would be pleased.
The Rev. Al Sharpton hopes to do well enough in early Democratic Party primaries so he can hang around for South Carolina, where he is believed to have a shot at winning or placing extremely well. Think of that in King’s day: A black candidate winning a Southern state.
We seriously wonder whether King would see a need for a civil rights movement like the one Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson vie for control of. Yes, King was in favor of a continued government poverty-elimination program, but such a thing was in its infancy in King’s day. While we are fans of the free market and private creation of jobs, it’s hard for us to castigate King for asking the government to help the black race, which that same government had kept from enjoying the liberties whites did for the span of this country’s existence.
Nearly 36 years after his assassination, it’s hard to argue there hasn’t been great progress in what King viewed as equality. Let’s remember King worked to give blacks and minorities in general a political voice.
Beyond that, look at the growing black middle class or the growing number of rich blacks, or the wealth and political status of American minorities in general. Everything denied to minorities in King’s day simply because of skin color today is accessible if one is willing to work.
No longer is the civil rights movement talking about the freedom of a minority to vote or speak his or her mind or sit where one wants on a bus. Instead, the arguments have turned to taking the Confederate emblem off Southern states’ flags, the selling of such flags at county fairs and the expansion of the welfare system.
King, of course, would be no stranger to standing apart from his contemporaries. King refused to give in to calls for more militant resistance in the civil rights movements, instead urging peaceful resistance, which led him to oppose the Vietnam War.
It is along these lines, not racial ones, that we think King still would be relevant were he alive at 75 today.
We believe King today still would advocate hard work and individual responsibility. It’s just our opinion, based on an underused King quote:
“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.’ … Be the best of whatever you are.”