Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist that held the respect of presidents, peoples, and then the world when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He advocated for equality for all, asking in his famous “I Have A Dream” speech that his children have the same opportunities and rights as white children in America. Together, conservatives and liberals alike should celebrate the man who wanted equal opportunity for all. Here’s some facts about Martin Luther King Jr. to show the character of the man.
He opposed Malcolm X’s original tactics
King advocated peaceful protests such as boycotts, sit-ins, and marches. His desire was that black Americans were treated the same as white Americans; allowed to sit on the same buses, use the same restrooms, and be educated in the same facilities. To contrast, even AlJazeera states that Malcolm X was originally a black supremacist. He wanted blacks to be seen as superior to whites, similar to the white supremacy activists we see today. Malcolm X encouraged blacks to propagate his movement “by any means necessary,” directly advocating for violence against his attackers, which he called self-defense. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. met only once in their lifetimes, before Malcolm X started to support King’s ideas and publicly advocate for them. Both activists were assassinated, King allegedly by James Earl Ray and Malcolm by the Nation of Islam.
He was well educated in Theology
Martin Luther King Jr. held a Bachelors of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary, where he was president in a predominantly white class. He subsequently attended Boston University and obtained a doctorate in systematic theology. He led Dexter Avenue Baptist Church after his education, and also was associate pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
He was eloquent, both in writing and in speaking
King personally and publicly advocated for civil rights alongside fellow ministers. As president of the Southern Leadership Christian Conference, he toured the nation and gave speeches and lectures to many people, including college students. He penned the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to fellow clergymen, where he challenged their ability to sit by while injustices occurred in Birmingham. He brilliantly defends peaceful protests in his letter, stating “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” King outlines his views and responds to his critics throughout the letter. Later, King makes the famous “I Have A Dream” speech, one of the few caught on tape.
He had somewhat pacifist tendencies
In a speech to a convention in 1962, the Guardian comments that King let himself be beat by a self-proclaimed Nazi who jumped onto stage and began punching the speaker. King refused to fight back, even after multiple punches. He did own guns in his house and applied for a concealed carry permit, but generally speaking did not advocate for guns, and eventually gave up all his weapons. His argument in an essay titled “Nonviolence: the Only Road to Freedom” argues that he did not want to endanger his fellow black Americans by committing them to casualties in the fight for justice. However, in the second half he comments that the Constitution gives people the right to protect their homes, but there must be some system of keeping law and order outside the home. He remarks, “The line between defensive violence and aggressive or retaliatory violence is a fine line indeed.”
He would not have been pleased with Black Lives Matter today
Black Lives Matter (BLM) has become synonymous with disrespect for police officers who arrest black men. While never the intention of the movement, it was defined as such and never overarchingly corrected, thus creating a negative image for a potentially noble cause. King lived in a time when a clear leader would have been chosen, just like he once was. He would have wanted to see a leader who could condemn the more radical elements of the group and encourage civil action to stop mistreatment of blacks. King was no stranger to police brutality; he saw the effects of “Bloody Sunday” when Alabama police attacked the peaceful black marchers, who protested because of the death of a man protecting his mother from a beating. King led a protest to the site, knelt, and prayed with thousands of clergyman, then turned back from a potential confrontation. He thus drew nationwide attention to the issue while still leading his followers into safety. President Johnson praised his actions, using every political influence he had to protect future demonstrations. King’s marches never turned into a riots, thus protecting the civil rights movement from becoming meaningless anarchy. BLM should have promoted clear strategies for preventing police brutality of any and all races, religions, and minorities while also protecting those police officers who do no harm.
Martin Luther King Jr. may have been a Republican or a Democrat, or a liberal or a conservative in today’s culture. We will never know the answer to those questions. However, both Republicans and conservatives should support his idea of equality to all races, rejecting white supremacy and black supremacy alike. We have to reject police brutality together, not because of the color of the victim but because of the action of the officer. Together, we have to reject violence and treat others as equals, whether they be black, white, brown or red. We should all share the dream that one day we will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.