King's dream unfulfilled
Jan 17, 2013 | 1491 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Martin Luther King Jr. is well remembered for his contributions to civil rights, his pacifism in the face of unrelenting violence and hatred, and ultimately, his tragic death at the hands of a gunman bent on silencing him.

Most recall King for his stands on racial inequality and advancement of civil rights. From bus rides in Selma to the freedom march on Washington, King was in the forefront of a movement that changed forever the way this country talked and acted about race. That we have Barack Obama sitting in the Oval Office today is a testament to the hard work King and his contemporaries undertook in the 1950s and 1960s.

But King also was keen on fighting economic injustice. There are lessons to be learned for today from his life and times, and many in the current “Occupy Wall Street” movement no doubt invoke his memory on a regular basis.

A year before his death, he gave a speech in New York City, and in part said “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say ‘This is not just.’”

King knew that for racism to truly become a thing of the past, social equality was not going to be enough. Having the vote, or the right to live in the same neighborhoods as white Americans, would only mean something if blacks could overcome the crushing poverty many faced, both in the rural South and in northern inner cities.

No one can say exactly where King would have taken his movement and his many followers, but there can be little doubt he was planning to mount a campaign to address economic inequalities, much like he had done with social and political inequalities in this country.

According to Wikipedia, in 1968, King and the SCLC organized the “Poor People’s Campaign” to address issues of economic justice:

“King traveled the country to assemble ‘a multiracial army of the poor’ that would march on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created an ‘economic bill of rights’ for poor Americans. The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, DC, demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States.

“King and the SCLC called on the government to invest in rebuilding America’s cities. He felt that Congress had shown ‘hostility to the poor’ by spending ‘military funds with alacrity and generosity.’ He contrasted this with the situation faced by poor Americans, claiming that Congress had merely provided ‘poverty funds with miserliness.’ His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of ‘racism, poverty, militarism and materialism,’ and argued that ‘reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.’”

Despite the many successes in civil rights over the 45 years since King’s death, this country still harbors many who have the same attitudes as those racists of King’s day. Many of the same economic pressures on our country’s poor are still there as well.

As we celebrate King’s life this weekend, and how far this country has come, we would be wise to remember there is still much to be done. There are many people in this country who still suffer discrimination and injustice, be it social, political, or economic.

If King were still alive today, rather than celebrate his many successes, there can be little doubt he would be preaching to the world about the work left to be done.
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