The Legacy of King
By Willie J. Mims, M.A
We have lost our memory of a man named Dr. Martin Luther King. We celebrate his birthday every year without knowing too much about the real Dr. King and what he stood for or against. We have gotten ourselves trapped in the time warp of his “I Have A Dream” speech. Yet the memory of that portion of his speech have blinded us to a historical reality revolving around America’s racial injustice against its black population.
Most people may not know that Dr. King did not start a movement. He, in fact, inherited a movement for freedom and human rights, a movement that had started as far back as the 17th, 18th, & 19th century. That was that long period of time in American history when black people stood on “destiny’s door steps,” fighting and protesting against this country’s racial injustice and racial violence.
In a majority of those years, black people fought those battles all by themselves. Dr. King did, however, have success in recruiting some non-black clergy and other activist during his time on this earth.
At the same time, the right to vote was at the forefront of this struggle for black freedom, for black human rights.In addition to that, humiliating and degrading and racist signs rose up all over the South, aimed at controlling every movement of black life. Almost 100 years after the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, giving black men the right to vote, the Southern states did everything possible to suppress this black vote—including lynching, beatings, water hoses, cattle prods, dogs, horses, and the police. This was state sponsored terrorism, which lasted from 1866 to 1965, a period of more than 100 years.
The Civil Rights Movement, as it is called today, was not called that in the time of Dr. King. It was called the freedom and human rights movement. Black people were marching for their freedom, for their human rights, and for their humanity. Those marches of the fifties, sixties, and early seventies, the ones led by Dr. King, were all peaceful. Yet, they were met with violence and a deafening silence on the part of the whole country. The lives of black people did not matter then, just as they do not matter now to those who constantly take their lives. For black people, that was a violent and dangerous period in this country’s racist history. Almost every peaceful march was met with violent resistance.
Not long ago, we looked on in shock at that 2021 January 6 assault upon the United States Congress by thousands of white racist thugs, both men and women, who had captured and held the seat of our democracy for over 2 ½ hours. They attacked and beat anyone and everyone who got in their way. On that day, only thirteen people were arrested!
Compare that to the number of people arrested during the Black Lives Matter marches that occurred during June of 2020, just after the police killing of George Floyd. Over 970 people were arrested in Portland, Oregon along. To this day, a little over 700 people have been arrested for that assault upon the Congress. Where thousands participated! Only 700?
There were over 12,000 complaints against the police in Seattle, Washington. Not only that, but over 10,000 arrests have been made since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
One must conclude that race, and only race, played a dominant role on the number of people arrested during the attack upon Congress and the Black Lives Matter Protest Marches. One group protested the police killing of black people, the other fought to overthrow the government.
Dr. Martin Luther King would have been sad and shocked on one end and proud on the other—sad and shocked at that January 6, 2021 assault upon Congress, and proud because of the world-wide support given to black people in America after the killing of George Floyd.
The struggle and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is still haunting America today. Voting is still on top of America’s problematic and racial table. Its two systems of justice, one white and one black, are still here fifty-five years after the death of King. In these two areas, just how much progress has actually been made?