“The King Impact On America is that he taught us we can make a difference and we did not have to become as hateful, spiteful, ruthless, insensitive, and wicked as those we’re fighting,” Rev. Al Sharpton. January 17, 2022.
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King JR. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave a speech in front of 250,000 of those who attended the March on Washington, and gave America a dream. A dream “deeply rooted in the American dream – one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.'”
That was 59 years ago, yet those words still hold true today as Americans continues to fight for economic equality, voting equality, and fight the fear that the minority race in this country is becoming the majority.
Following the public killing of George Floyd, this country woke up and demonstrated across the country in protests, conversation, and education. It once again awoken those in this country the power of voice and coming together to fight a common cause. It is the importance of Dr. King’s words that day.
The voices of many helped hold accountable the officers involved in Floyd’s death, and helped shed light on other cases in which Black men and women lost their lives prematurely due to alleged racial bias, inequality, or in some cases direct racism.
Today’s fight is not much different than the fight in 1957 where Dr. King spoke about the right to vote for all Americans in this country.
“The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And so our most urgent request to the President of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote.”
Congress finally passed the Right To Vote Act in 1965 after years of fighting, protest, speeches, and being the victims of violent retaliation – Dr. King chose to chose a path of nonviolence to spread his message of hope, while energizing tens of thousands to continue to apply pressure in hopes to bring equality to Black and Brown Americans in this country.
All that can be undone.
At least 34 laws in 19 states have been passed recently to make it more difficult for Black and Brown people to vote in this country using the falsehoods of the 2020 election as a reason to bring tougher laws to the books. Simultaneously a false narrative of “critical race theory” in schools has muddied the waters in lies and debate to bring fear of those simply wanting to education our children about the history of America.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act have been stalled due to Senate rules and lawmakers not willing to put country and equality before their own interests. Failure to pass these laws could bring as back to a time in 1957 where King demanded a change in how we see voting rights as a nation.
“We must work passionately and unrelentingly for the goal of freedom, but we must be sure that our hands are clean in the struggle. We must never struggle with falsehood, hate, or malice. We must never become bitter. I know how we feel sometime. There is the danger that those of us who have been forced so long to stand amid the tragic midnight of oppression—those of us who have been trampled over, those of us who have been kicked about—there is the danger that we will become bitter. But if we will become bitter and indulge in hate campaigns, the old, the new order which is emerging will be nothing but a duplication of the old order.
We must meet hate with love. We must meet physical force with soul force. There is still a voice crying out through the vista of time, saying: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you (Yes), pray for them that despitefully use you. Then, and only then, can you matriculate into the university of eternal life. That same voice cries out in terms lifted to cosmic proportions: “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” And history is replete with the bleached bones of nations that failed to follow this command. We must follow nonviolence and love.”
Use today as a day to not only reflect on Dr. King’s speeches, and his impact of the movement in his past. Yet, how his words then, can motivate us today to bring the equality, and freedom he once dreamed of, and died for. The fight was not of yesterday, but in our presence today.