What Dr. King Tells Blacks and Whites Today

Article excerpt

RIOTS.Racism. Poverty, Unemployment. Homelessness. Inequality.

These are just some of the social malignancies that plagued Black American life from slavery on through the 1950's and 1960's the very issues that Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life to correcting and erasing.

Today, on the 64th anniversary of his birth, these social ills continue to afflict Black America, and, consequently, the teaching, preaching and message of Dr. King are just as fresh and relevant as ever. One might wonder what the Nobel laureate would say to us today, to both Black and Whites, about ongoing social problems. Those who knew the man and his dream, and those who are students of his teachings and leadership, have no doubt he would offer sage advice.

Over 200,000 people were present when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, made his Famous March on Washington speech in 1963. Yet his powerful words echoed to millions more around the globe. He described a hopeful vision that "my four little children will one clay live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" To him, it was a dream that people of every color, creed and country could believe in. He gave his life trying to make it come true.

We salute DE King's work, the hopes that he held, and the things that he stood for. Because at American Ah-lines, we believe that everyone who has a dream deserves a chance to fulfill it. march to the realization of the American dream. Let us march on segregated housing until every ghetto of social and economic oppression is dissolved and Negroes and Whites live side by side in decent, safe and sanitary housing.

"If Dr King were alive today," says Benjamin L. Hooks, CEO and executive director of the NAACP, "I am certain his message for Blacks and Whites would be the message he gave during his life: 'We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish apart as fools."

Noting that joblessness, racism and riots were social problems prevalent during Dr. King's lifetime, Hooks emphasizes that Dr. King, a Southern preacher who earned a doctorate in theology, had a consistent message taken from the Scriptures: "Justice, justice shalt thou pursue."

"Dr. King knew there must be justice-economic justice and social justice," says Hooks. "He knew there had to be justice for the voiceless. Didn't he remind us that a riot is the cry of the unheard? Dr. King would never countenance riots, but he would at least understand the rage at the deplorable conditions that caused the riots.

"So today he would say let us provide jobs, improve housing conditions, and promote better communication with police and other law enforcement agencies," says Hooks. "Wanton law and or der must stop. Respect for all, whether rich or poor, Black or White, must bc the rule."

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., says that she was inspired to learn that Dr. King espoused her personal views on urban violence, especially in light of the riots that erupted after four Los Angeles police officers were aquitted of the videotaped beating of Rodney King. "Dr. King said that it's not enough to denounce the rioters, but we must denounce the conditions that led to the riots," says Waters. "That's what I've been trying to do, just what he said, that you shouldn't denonnce the looters, but the conditions that led to the looting. That message is particularly important to me in the aftermath of the [Los Angeles] rebellion and the way it was handled."

Let us march on segregated schools until every vestige of segregated and inferior education becomes a thing of the past... Let us march on poverty... until no starved man walks the streets of our cities and towns, in search of jobs that do not exist.

Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder says Dr. King would no doubt view the 1990s with trepidation as well as hope. "It is unfortunate how many problems we thought were within our grasp of resolving in the 1960s actually have fistered and worsened through the years," says Gov. …