American Progress: Fifty Years After Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fifty years ago today, famed civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed.
King had traveled to Memphis, Tennessee in support of black public sanitation workers who received unfair wages and treatment on the job in comparison to their white co-workers.
While in Memphis, King and several other supporters involved in the movement lodged at the Lorraine motel.
On April 4, 1968, several days into his stay, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stepped onto the balcony of his motel room to address other civil rights supporters who had gathered below.
Moments later, assailant James Earl Ray shot Dr. King. The bullet entered King’s cheek, traveled down his spine, and eventual landed in his shoulder.
Though enduring hours of surgery and resuscitation efforts, King was pronounced dead at 7:05 pm- he was only thirty-nine years old.
Dr. King’s Impact
America is now exactly fifty years away from Martin Luther King’s last breath and now is the appropriate time to contemplate our nation and our progress with civil rights.
Though Dr. King was not the sole person involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, he remains the most prominent figure. His idea of peaceful protest expressed through demonstrations such as sit-ins and marches, drew attention to the discriminating treatment of African-Americans in the United States.
King believed in the fair treatment of not just blacks, but all people. With King’s help and the labor of many others, America slowly became a less segregated place to live.
Now people of all creeds and races can frequent the same restaurants, shop the same stores, and use the same restrooms and water fountains.
However, with all the progress we have made since the life of Dr. King, is America really excelling in equality for all? The answer- absolutely not.
Where We are Today
The years have made our nation complacent. Where progress should be moving forward, we are hastily moving back to the racial climate of the 1960s.
With the current president so blatantly expressing racist overtures about blacks, Hispanics, women, Asians, and the poor, it has become disgustingly appropriate to hate and discriminate against basically everyone.
Police brutality is at an unprecedented high against African Americans. With the names of innocent victims such as Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and Tamar Rice appearing in the headlines, it is exceedingly difficult to feel good about the American legal system.
Only a matter of weeks ago, twenty-two-year-old Stephon Clark was shot eight times by white police officers outside of his grandmother’s home, armed only with his cellphone. Then there is the issue of gun control.
While Dr. King believed in peaceful protest and no guns or gun violence, we live in a nation that would rather allow military grade firearms be made accessible to the public, than care about the safely of our children.
On Valentine’s Day of 2018, seventeen teens were killed and seventeen more injured in a high school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.Let us not forget the racial injustice in Puerto Rico.
When Hurricane Irma made landfall in Puerto Rico and ravished the U.S territory leaving millions without power, food, water, or medicine, the American government took days to respond to the people’s earnest cry for help.
Then there was the riot that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia last year. White supremacist groups terrorized citizens who stood in peaceful protest for the removal of a Confederate statute.
In the summer of 2017, the president placed a travel ban on places like the Middle East, all because the extreme behavior of a few radical individuals.
Lastly, DACA Dreamers, immigrants who have been living in America since early childhood, are being forced out of the county like herd animals.
Where we are in America is not ideal. If Dr. King could look at our nation today, I am sure that tears would pour out over our county in great force. However, there is hope.
Hope for Reform
Dr. King has set the tone for peaceful protest and today many groups are using that right. Last month several marches took place is support of gun control, police brutality, and other injustices in America.
Though this county has not reached the perfect peek of King’s dream, there is hope for positive change. Racial and social injustices will always exist, but to quote Gandhi, who King adored, the solution is just this:
We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.
In other words, we must mirror the changes we wish to see in the world. Equality and justice starts with a personal desire to grow in our love and acceptance of all people.
King did not die in vain. Our nation has come a long way from the 1960’s, however there is much more work to do.
I will end with this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an idea for consideration:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
What do you think? Have we made great progress in America since the assassination of Dr. King? Comment below using your Facebook profile or WordPress guest or user id.