Martin Luther King, Jr., was much more than ‘just a man’

 

By: Karl Nelson

Karl Nelson is a Social Media Manager for The Armstrong Williams Show. 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., died nearly 50 years ago while fighting for civil rights for all Americans. King was very vocal about three evils in this world – racism, militarism, and materialism. He had a “dream” that one day his children would “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

That was a famous line from King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, which he delivered for the first time during the March on Washington in August 1963. This is the man we celebrate on MLK Day – a federal holiday that marks Kings’ birthday and gives us an opportunity to reflect on his courage as a black man who chose to lead at a time where racism, hatred, bigotry, violence and more plagued blacks in America. However, many of us celebrate King and other heroic leaders year-round, and rightfully so.

 

Everything that I just outlined about King is exactly why I was floored on Monday as I listened to an ignorant and clueless caller on The Armstrong Williams Show.

I couldn’t believe that on MLK Day – a day we were supposed to be honoring a pioneer – a black man would actually call into the show with the nerve to say that this holiday meant “s***” to him and that King was just one of the hundreds of men who had a dream and that there wasn’t anything special about him.

If you ask me, that right there is part of the problem in not only this country, but in this chaotic world today. People will take the energy and time to criticize someone – even someone as monumental as Dr. King – and say that person wasn’t special and did nothing that was special. However, isn’t it ironic that the one giving the criticism is often the same person who hasn’t sacrificed any of their adult years to push our society in an onward and upward direction?

We must remember that criticizing someone or something is the easiest thing a person can do. It requires the least amount of skill and brainpower. So, instead of disrespecting the memory of Dr. King like the caller in question, how about we look at his illustrious life in its entirety and choose to gain something from the powerful and full-time stance that he took as a minister of the gospel and as a vocal leader for oppressed people.

I’m sure there were hundreds of other men and women who came before Dr. King – each with a similar dream. In fact, there had to be because he wouldn’t have had the platform that he did if it wasn’t for other strong people in the black community and beyond who fought and gave their lives for others. But, in focusing on King himself, here’s a man who should at the least be honored as an individual who used nonviolence and civil disobedience as tactics during the civil rights movement – tactics that were inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.

King started at the age of 26, just a year younger than I am today, when he led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. He pushed for desegregation in Albany, Georgia. He also organized nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama. King organized the 1963 March on Washington.

King fought for racial equality in a nonviolent way at a time where senseless violence against blacks was at a high. He organized the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. King used his platform as the founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to work toward desegregation in housing and in the years just before his assassination, King focused on poverty and the Vietnam War.

In 1968, before his death, King had plans on leading the Poor People’s Campaign. This is the hero that I’m writing about – the same hero who I refuse to allow people to belittle, not just on MLK Day but on any day. 

Dr. King could have easily stayed in the background and took cover like I’m sure many people chose to do in those times. Instead, he did something that he wasn’t obligated to do. King preached equality and held world leaders accountable for the hatred and bigotry that plagued America at that time – the same negative qualities that haunt us today. Just like those who inspired King, look at the many leaders today of all races who have been impacted and influenced by the example that he set.

I understand people who say they wish Dr. King’s dream was talked about more than just on MLK Day. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with celebrating him on a day that is known nationally as a day to remember King’s life. As people, we should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time – meaning we can celebrate him on a federal holiday while continuing to fight the good fight the other 364 days of the year.