Dr. Kings Legacy is Not a Talking Point
Happy MLK day. As you read this, more than one self-important elected official with the power to improve the lives of their constituents will refuse to do so. They all have different reasons for this choice. Some of them are worried a Black person might benefit, others are getting paid off by corporations, there are a few who want to protect “the market” at all cost, even if it means some people will suffer, and then there are those who are in leadership, but have no other aspiration than to make themselves look good. Tough votes don’t keep you employed, grandstanding and theatrics do. And what better time to combine both than on a National Holiday celebrating one of the greatest leaders in American History.
The complete story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the political journey of a civil rights activist who realized having a seat at the restaurant table wasn’t very helpful if you couldn’t afford to purchase anything off of the menu. Dr. King understood that the issue of poverty and income inequality were central in his fight for racial justice and civil rights. In his final book, “Where do we go from here?” he talked about the dangers of putting profits over people, saying;
“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. A civilization can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy.”
It’s been more than 50 years since King launched the “poor people’s campaign.”Although he was murdered before he could achieve any material victories, his goal was to fight for the things regular people needed. The Joe Manchin’s of this world will use his words but ignore everything he actually stood for. Instead, we get someone who not only refuses to support legislation (Build Back Better) that would provide billions of dollars in support to people everywhere but actively sabotage its passage so that he can protect their corporate interest.
But let’s be honest, there are Joe Manchin’s at every level of politics; and they’re not just your typical untalented white men with nothing to offer but trust funds, vague platitudes, and bland personalities. We’ve also been gaslighted by Black and non-Black people of color who weaponize their identity for power, and then sell those communities down the river. Instead of addressing income inequality and poverty, they double down on the politics for the rich, all while supporting the expansion of a police state.
in 2015, there were 43.1 million people in poverty, as breathtaking as 43 million sounds, it was actually an improvement. In 2014, that number was 46.6 million people. In that same year, The 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress reported that on any given night, there are 564,708 people homeless, and of that group, nearly one-quarter of all homeless people were children, under the age of 18.
The United States of America is not bankrupt, we are not struggling to pay bills, and despite a pandemic that has changed everything, we are still one of the richest countries in the world. The issue of poverty and income inequality continues because of a lack of will. It continues because our country is run by people who greedily quote the words of Dr. King, but do not appreciate, or believe in his principles.
If Dr. King could return to this earth for one day, just to see how far this country has come, he wouldn’t be moved by his birthday being made a national holiday, he might be humbled by all of the kind speeches, and events organized in his honor, but he never fought for accolades, so that feeling would pass. And while he might marvel at Barack Obama, America’s first black president, he would be troubled by the rise of Donald Trump, and dismayed at the number of people without good jobs, living in poverty, or simply dying in the street. He would see a country that has gotten even richer than what it was when he was alive but done even less to help those that can’t help themselves. He would see a failure.
Dr. King gave his life for a better world, and now more than ever, we have the power to turn his dream into a reality. It’s about time we stopped giving lip service to justice and fought to make it a reality.