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Honoring the legacy and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr – Part I

January 14, 2020

I have written numerous articles about the legacy and message of Dr. King over the years and there are a number of great books that have been written by Dr. King and about him. Some of those books can be found at this link

Over the next three days we will be posting a collection of previous writings on the legacy and message of Dr. King. In today’s post we want to provide a window into the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr that is not as widely known. Dr. King was a complex man, one who evolved over time. He was a man that cannot be summed up in phrases or quotes, especially since he was a man that was hated by those with power in the United States.

In this post from 2016, we explore the message and significance of the 1967 speech that Dr. King gave on the Vietnam War at Riverside Church. The speech, entitled, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence,” was revolutionary on many levels. In this speech, which further marginalized him from the Civil Rights community, Dr. King identified what he called the Evil Triplets – racism, capitalism and militarism. 

This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

In another article from 2016, we look at what Dr. King had to say about poverty and capitalism, themes that he addressed in the years just before he was assassinated. In 1966, Dr. King, along with numerous organizations began a campaign in Chicago to challenge poverty, particularly poverty in the form of housing. King often referred to communities were Blacks lived as slums and he began to organize tenants to fight for rights, particularly through various forms of direct action. One such action was the closing down of the Dan Ryan expressway, where hundreds of people took over the highway and shut down parts of the city in order to make a statement against the violence of slums. Dr. King said that slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of white society.

In this third article, we looked at Dr. King’s message about racism and White Supremacy. In a speech he gave in Canada in 1967. Dr. King stated:

Negroes were outraged by inequality; their ultimate goal was freedom. Most of the white majority were outraged by brutality; their goal was improvement, not freedom nor equality. When Negroes could use public facilities, register and vote in some areas of the South, find token educational advancement, again in token form find new areas of employment, it brought the Negro a sense of achievement, but it brought to the whites a sense of completion. When Negroes assertively moved on to ascend the second rung of the ladder, a firm resistance from the white community developed. This resistance characterized the second phase, which we are now experiencing. In some quarters it was a courteous rejection, in others it was a stinging white backlash. In all quarters unmistakably it was outright resistance. The arresting of the limited forward progress by white resistance revealed the latent racism that was deeply rooted in US society.

In this same article, we look at Dr. King’s message about racism at what that means in Grand Rapids.

Tomorrow, in Part II, we will look more deeply at US militarism, what Dr. King called a demonic, destructive suction tube.

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