Jump to content

How Far Are We Toward Mlk's "dream"?


Recommended Posts

The U.S. will be honoring the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday (Jan. 15) by paraking in a national holiday on Mon. Jan. 17. As we prepare for this day off of work (most of us anyway), it might be a good idea to reflect upon just how far we've come (or haven't) toward fulfilling his famed "Dream" for America.


Here's one person's remarks to get this going:



January 10, 2005


By Bernice Powell Jackson


What would Dr. King think of the world today had he lived?

What would he have to say? What causes would he be speaking out for or against?

Many ask that question every year as we approach his January 15 birthday. The truth is we will never know because no human being stands still in time, but we all grow and mature just by living. For example, by reading Dr. King's sermons and writings in the last five years of his life, we know that he prioritized economic justice issues and working for peace in a world of war. These became his priorities, just as racial justice had been his prime motivator in the early days of his ministry.


What would Dr. King have to say about the terrible toll of the

tsunami throughout the nations of the Indian Ocean? I think he would have

spoken a word of consolation to the people of those nations and an

assurance of the love of God, especially for those who had lost not only

family, but all possessions. But I also think he would have challenged

those of us who live so comfortably in America to understand that our

sharing with the world cannot come only during times of crisis and

catastrophe. I think he would have used this opportunity to help

Americans understand that our federal government's foreign aid (excluding military spending) and our private charitable gifts combined equal only 21 cents per day, per person - far less than our European counterparts. Many Americans falsely believe that our federal government foreign aid is 25% of our national budget. Instead, it is less than one quarter of one percent. I think Dr. King would say we, the richest nation in the world, can do better.


What would Dr. King say about the on-going war in Iraq? I have said

many times that I believe Dr. King would have spoken out forcefully against

going into that war and would have continued to voice his opposition to the

war, just as he did in the Viet Nam War. In his famous sermon entitled,

"Silence is Betrayal," at The Riverside Church in New York City, one year

before his assassination, Dr. King spoke out against the inherent danger of

trying to end conflict with war, the racism of that war, the spending of

our national budget for war instead of against poverty and the high price

being paid by the soldiers who were mostly black and Hispanic or poor.


Recently there have been some African American clergy who have tried

to expropriate Dr. King in their fight against same sex marriage, some even

beginning a march at his graveside. I don't profess to know what Dr.

King's position on same sex marriage would have been, but I do believe that Dr. King would have supported the full humanity and the inclusion of all children of God in our society. Just as he supported Bayard Rustin, the

labor unionist and gay man who was the genius behind the March on

Washington and many of the strategies of the civil rights movement, I

believe Dr. King would have reached out to the glbt community.


Whatever Dr. King might have said about the issues of today, I know

that he would have urged each and every American to work for justice and

peace in our nation and the world. This year, as we celebrate Dr. King's

birthday, let's all find a concrete way to work for such a world. Write a

letter to your Congresspersons and Senators about the genocide in Darfur, work in Habitat for Humanity building projects, make sure your church is using fair trade coffee, tutor a child in need or teach an adult to read.


If we want a world of peace with justice, then we must work for it.

I know Dr. King would approve of that.


Rev. Jackonson is President from North America, World Council of Churches

Link to comment
Share on other sites

MLK=one of my heroes. Oddly enough, I confess not knowing as much about him and his life. Rather, he is symbolic to me of all that is human and holy in the quest for justice.


One of the reasons he is important to me is universalizing of human worth. This is a vital reminder to me, since the term "postmodern" tends to be a shibboleth of mine. He is a reminder of what we might forget if we descend to far into a relativized world. Could it be true that not all truths are created equal? Could it be that although "justice for me" might not be the same as "justice for you," that there is still a greater reality by which we are all called to be accountable? Could it be that the phrase "you can't do that to a human being" can authoritatively be followed up by the phrase "because God says so" because God is the ultimate threat to injustice?


While we praise King for his work, we must also recognize that his world is not our own. Much has changed and he serves to beg more questions than give us exemplary answers.


What is "justice"? His understanding of equality is distinctly not the understanding of those who advocate for special interest groups. But our understanding of systemic power has changed.


How do we confront "injustice"? His world was one of "legalized" injustice (de jure ). They could stand in opposition to something tangible, or on the books, which could be overturned. But what about cultures in which the injustice is of a de facto sort? What if there is nothing tangible to point to and say "that's wrong"? Surely, his approach would not work in such a setting (see for example what happens with Malcom X). At what point does the cry for "justice" become another tool for "injustice," and how do we discern the shift? We see that right now in Iraq with the US troops engaged in a mission of "liberation of the oppressed" of the oppressed peoples, only to establish an occupational force.


Questions. Questions and more questions. But not nearly so many answers.

Edited by XianAnarchist
Link to comment
Share on other sites

One a related note: (from an email from www.forusa.org)


Most of us are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered before a crowd of 200,000 people at the March on Washington in August, 1963. But few have read Dr. King’s World House essay, probably the best summation of his teachings.


This essay is adapted from King’s Nobel Peace Prize lecture, given at the University of Oslo on December 10, 1964. He worked on this speech for nearly a month and later gave it prominence as the final chapter in his book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, published in 1967.


The World House essay describes the enormous challenges facing humanity and prophetically ends by warning of the tremendous urgency of addressing them: “Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numer­ous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’”


When Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel introduced Dr. King to a Rabbinical Assembly 10 days before King’s assassination, Heschel proclaimed: “Where in America today do we hear a voice like the voice of the prophets of Israel? Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America. God has sent him to us. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a voice, a vision and a way. The whole future of America will depend on the impact and influence of Dr. King.”


Black theologian and activist Vincent Harding has written: “If there is even a chance that Rabbi Heschel was correct, that the untranquil King and his peace-disturbing vision, words, and deeds hold the key to the future of America, for scholars, citizens or celebrants to forget the real man and his deepest implications would be not only faithless, but also suicidal.” This year is the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s World House vision. It is time to heed the prophet and let him lead us “out of the wilderness.”


Summary of The World House:

King begins his essay by suggesting that we have inherited a large house, a “world house” in which we must somehow learn to live together in peace - black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Muslim and Hindu - a family widely separated in ideas, culture and interest. We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or together we will perish as fools.


He goes on to say that we suffer from a poverty of the spirit that stands in sharp contrast to our scientific and technological advances. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.

He then describes three great problems facing humanity:

¨ racism

¨ poverty/materialism

¨ war

Racism and its perennial ally, economic exploitation, provide the key to understanding most of the international complications of this generation. If we are not diligent in our determination to root out the last vestiges of racism in our dealings with the rest of the world, we may soon see the sins of our fathers visited upon ours and succeeding generations.


If Western civilization does not now respond constructively to the challenge to banish racism, some future historian will have to say that a great civilization died because it lacked the soul and commitment to make justice a reality for all people.

Poverty, like a monstrous octopus, stretches its choking prehensile tenta­cles into lands and villages all over the world. Two-thirds of the peoples of the world are undernourished, ill-housed and shabbily clad. We have the resources and the scientific know-how to provide everyone everywhere with the basic necessities of life. There is no deficit in human resources; the defi­cit is in human will.


The time has come for an all-out effort to eradicate global poverty. The rich nations must use their vast resources to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled and feed the unfed. The wealthy nations must initiate a massive, sustained Marshall Plan for Asia, Africa, and Latin America, allocating 2% of their gross national income annually for 10-20 years to conquer the ancient enemy, poverty.


All people are interdependent; all life is interrelated. The agony of the poor impoverishes the rich; the betterment of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother. What­ever affects one directly affects all indirectly.


The final problem humanity must solve in order to survive in the world house is finding an alternative to war. Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is ob­solete. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminates even the possibility that war may serve any good at all. It is as possible and as urgent to put an end to war and violence between nations as it is to put an end to poverty and racial injustice.


King suggests that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become a subject for study and experimentation in every field of human conflict, in­cluding relations between nations. The United Nations is a gesture in the direction of nonviolence on a world scale. King proposes that it examine the uses of nonviolent direct action-the persistent and determined application of peaceable power to offenses against the world community.


In the final section of his essay, King states that the stability of the world house will require a revolution of values. We must rapidly shift from a “thing”-oriented society to a “people”-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are inca­pable of being conquered.


We are called upon to be the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside. But true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. The whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life.


America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can lead the way in this revolution of values. A nation that year after year spends more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. There is nothing to prevent us from paying adequate wages to schoolteachers, social workers and other servants of the public. There is nothing to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American citi­zen, whether a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid or day laborer. There is nothing but shortsightedness to prevent us from guaranteeing an annual minimum - and livable - income for every American family. There is noth­ing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.


This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against Communism [substitute “terrorism”]. War is not the answer. We must seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of Communism/terrorism grows and develops.


A genuine revolution of values means that our loyalties must become ecu­menical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to humanity as a whole. This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all people.


Love is the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. We can no longer afford to worship the God of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals who pursued this self-defeating path of hate.


We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. There is an invisible book of life that faith­fully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.” We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. This may well be humanity’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.


Summary excerpted from Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968)


How You Can Promote Dr. King’s World House Agenda

1. Read the World House essay. Give a copy to your minister, priest, rabbi, or imam and ask that it be used as the topic for a sermon and for study by the congregation. The essay is on the FOR’s website: www.forusa.org.

2. Encourage educators to include the World House vision and agenda in their teaching about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

3. Mail copies of the World House essay to your newspaper editor, radio talk show hosts, and television news anchors and reporters. Urge them to report that Dr. King’s legacy includes his World House vision and the challenge to eradicate racism, poverty, excessive materialism, and militarism.

4. Schedule use of our World House replica (4 ft depth x 8 ft width x 6 ft height) for your congregation, school, or community group. Ask for a speaker or workshop facilitator on the World House. Suggested donation: $40. Call (401) 273-4369 or (401) 724-7700, Ext. 6. World House replica: concept by Nondas Voll, RI Fund for Community Progress; design and construction by Rev. T. Michael Rock, FOR-RI Chapter and RI Committee for Nonviolence Initiatives.

5. Join the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest and largest interfaith peace and justice organization in the US. Write FOR, Box 270, Nyack, NY 10960. Call (845) 358-4601. Visit FOR’s website: www.forusa.org.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Still segregated by color: green


Published on: 01/16/05


The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is in its death throes, suffering a leadership crisis, financial woes and a free-fall in membership. SCLC offers the most dramatic example of a civil rights organization in decline, but it is by no means the only one.


The National Urban League doesn't command the respect it once did. The Congress of Racial Equality has been little more than a joke ever since its chairman, Roy Innis, began promoting the interests of African tyrants, starting with Idi Amin. Even the NAACP, the grand dame of civil rights organizations, has lost power and prestige.


But that's the good news. Civil rights organizations are victims of their own success. In retrospect, the achievements of the American civil rights movement have been stunning — overturning a hateful legal and social infrastructure in a surprisingly short period of time.


The movement King led has achieved many of its tangible goals, including the abolition of a legal apartheid and the broad transition of black Americans into the nation's mainstream. While racism lingers, it is clearly diminished. Black Americans now occupy posts of power and prestige, from the office of secretary of state to the CEO's chair at Time Warner to the president's office at Brown University.


Even a few cases of controversy and failure have been oddly reassuring, suggesting that black Americans now have the freedom to be greedy, incompetent, wrongheaded and unlucky without smearing their race. Franklin Raines' fall from grace as CEO of Fannie Mae was just another example of the mendacity of a greedy business executive. Tyrone Willingham was fired as coach at Notre Dame because he didn't win enough football games. Colin Powell is leaving the Bush administration because he is a reluctant warrior, not a happy one. They were judged by their deeds, not their race, and that's progress.


Yet, none of that tells the full story of America's social and racial landscape at the 76th anniversary of King's birth. There is bad news to consider, too.


Depressing numbers of black Americans are stuck at the margins — held back by poverty, educational failure and drug abuse, among other maladies. And the gap between accomplished blacks and their left-behind brethren grows wider as the economic ladder becomes harder to climb. These days, middle-class black Americans move out of bad neighborhoods just as whites do, fleeing crime, poor schools and decaying infrastructure.


But those same phenomena are increasing the gap between affluent and poorer whites, too. Indeed, class — not race — is the great divide in America now.


The civil rights movement was phenomenally successful in removing the barriers that prevented capable black students and professionals from assuming their rightful places in the classrooms of prestigious universities or the boardrooms of major corporations. With a little assistance from affirmative action programs, those students and professionals made the transition to the middle class.


But the civil rights movement did little to curb the myriad forces that trap poor children in bad schools, that keep health care out of reach of the working poor, that shutter factories and mills. And those forces limit the horizons of white and brown workers as well as black ones.


Toward the end of his life, King understood that. In 1968, he launched the Poor People's Campaign, an effort to check the rapacious impulse of capitalism by emphasizing social and economic justice. He meant it to be a rainbow crusade of the nation's black, brown and white workers.


Nearly 40 years after King's death, the gap between the haves and have-nots has widened, and the goal of economic justice is more elusive than ever. Those who would keep King's dream alive should take up that cause.


• Cynthia Tucker is the editorial page editor. Her column appears Sundays and Wednesdays.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service