Monday, January 16, 2012

Remembering the Real Dr. King

Ever since I've been blogging, I've taken the opportunity on the national holiday remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to point out that as thoroughly as we've sanitized Dr. King in our national consciousness, he still remains as dangerous a figure to the economic and political status quo today as he was in his day.

I've met too many kids who assume King's I Have A Dream speech (as wonderful as it is) somehow instantly ended racism and achieved total equality for all people in America to not make this annual reminder. Particularly with the events of this past year, the things we don't say about Dr. King show how badly we want to make him safe. The Poor People's Campaign he was planning at the time of his murder in 1968 had exactly the same tactics and goals as the current "Occupy Wall Street" movement.

But I also have to acknowledge that the words of a white, upper middle class guy who has never encountered a shred of prejudice or oppression don't carry a lot of weight when I'm trying to make a claim about who Martin Luther King really was. So I think I'll let Dr. King speak for himself.

Below is the audio of his 1967 sermon, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam". This sermon literally made everybody mad. His enemies found further reason to dislike him. His friends and colleagues in the civil rights movement thought that he was doing grave damage to their cause by taking such an unpopular stance, and said he should just stick to issues of race. But, as he says in this sermon, "I am determined to take the gospel seriously." As a prophet, he couldn't speak up against one type of injustice and remain silent on other types of injustice.

The sermon is over 20 minutes long, but it's worth taking the time to listen. There are so many parallels between Dr. King's time and ours that one finds in this message, but the one that stood out most to me was, "One of the difficulties in speaking out today grows out of the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty."

May we honor the man in whose name we're getting a day off of work and school by being brave enough to speak up against evil and injustice even when, especially when, no one else will stand beside us.


Anonymous said...


I really enjoyed your post on the radical nature of Dr. King's message and movement. I was reflecting in a similar vein on something Lewis Baldwin said in a class I took from him at Vanderbilt many moons ago when I came upon your post so I linked to it in mine. I hope that was ok!

Thanks for the challenging thoughts. I enjoy your writing.


Unknown said...

Thanks, Rick! I took Dr. Balwin's MLK class at Vanderbilt, myself, so his perspective on Dr. King has a lot of influence on my own.