“I have a dream,” is a phrase easily recognizable and synonymous to the late Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s often mentioned as if it is his logo or trademark, but it does not portray the totality of the figure we know as “Dr. King.”
King’s vision for African-Americans and America went beyond being able to sit in a white-run restaurant, work in a white-owned factory and vote for a white president. King pierced into the psyche of a nation with the intent of its oppressors, recognizing the evil that was being committed, and issuing justice to those who only believe it to be a myth.
King was a spiritual leader who wanted to see America repent from its sins and renege on the policies that affected this nation and the world. King was public enemy number one and our society is doing his legacy a disservice by continuing to paint him as one who believed in peace without the destruction of the racial and class system that kept people divided.
King’s legacy is often used as a pacifier for modern day protests and leaders.
Writer Ta Nehisi Coates once stated in a MLK keynote in 2017 it’s “common to use Martin Luther King to beat on people who are actually acting in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King,” which “proceeds from sanitation of Martin Luther King and non-violence itself.”
Even Vice President Mike Pence, in an interview with CBS, recently quoted a phrase from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” stating “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
Pence then followed by comparing president Trump to King saying Trump, like MLK, “inspired us to change” during his interview.
There is no need to wonder that if Dr. King was alive today, he would not have the support of Pence nor Trump. Nor would he play a quiet role in contesting the policies and actions of the current administration.
In the same “I Have a Dream” speech, King said, “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”
This remark truly depicted the passion of Dr. King in challenging the status quo of that time. He not only challenged the political system, but also the economic system and military industrial complex.
King did not stand for African-Americans integrating into the white-American society by simply turning the other cheek and remaining silent or non confrontational. Many may not be aware, but King was listed as a public enemy/terrorist by the F.B.I.
King’s dream cannot be realized without him fighting the American nightmare, marred by racism and violence that African Americans lived through. With the right image of King in mind, African-Americans and the wider American society will be better equipped to deal with the realities that still hamper the dream he so eloquently shared in front of the Lincoln Memorial.