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Our Struggle to Overcome Must Begin With You and Me

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We, as Americans, have celebrated another Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Our protestations were eloquent and our programs were grand as we remembered King.

America now has a new president with the transition of power done with great pomp and circumstance. On the heels of this occasion came a march also in Washington celebrating women. The cause and timeliness of the march should not be lost on us. During his campaign, the new president disrespected women in every possible way.

King said, “That unless we learn to live together as brothers and sisters, we will die apart as fools.” It is my opinion that this lesson will be put to the test in the coming years.

Being a peacemaker is much better than being a troublemaker. Many of us are asking whether we will have peace or trouble in the White House. During King’s time, many people saw the civil rights movement as a struggle between Black people and White people. It is naïve to think that race did not play a part in it.

I suspect when you ask your neighbor about this time in history, they will automatically think in racial terms. Yet, I think that the lack of respect and intolerance we had for each other also played a role. King stated, “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

King had more than his share of critics. Many thought he was an extremist. There was a segment of the population that believed his methodology was too mild, that nonviolence would simply not work. As I have read more about his life, he believed in man’s humanity and goodness. He believed there was good at the center of everyone’s core. Some would opine that this notion is on trial today.

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His nonviolent approach to reconciliation was recognized by the world when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was a product of the South, having been born January 15, 1929, in Atlanta. He experienced the evils of injustice and denial based upon his race. Yet, King read and studied Gandhi and other scholars and decided nonviolence was the road to take.

The implementation of this strategy came at the high cost of being jailed on numerous occasions. It seemed his jail experiences only strengthened his resolve to continue the struggle. Despite jail, he set his sails on making America a land where equal opportunity was the rule and not the exception.

In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Unfortunately, in 2017, we are still wrestling with issues of race, gender and class. Hate, mistrust and injustice are still being practiced in this great nation of ours called America. It is way past time for us as a people to lift one another up, because when we do, we ourselves are made better.

Many years ago, I remember my mom saying, “Son, sometimes you have to shame people into doing right.” In thinking back, I believe King made America ashamed of how it was treating some of its citizens. Are we still ashamed in 2017?

In a speech, King gave in Memphis on April 3, 1968, he said, “I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop and I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned with that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you.”

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on April 4, 1968.

We live in some exciting but dangerous times now, but as King reminded us, we must have a sort of dangerous unselfishness. Let us strive to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. We need more dignity and more respect when it comes to each other.

When we do, we will overcome sooner and not later.

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