The Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday (Aug. 28, 2013) marked 50 years since MLK’s speech on the Washington Mall. The famous “I Have A Dream” speech. It’s somewhat shameful to admit, but until yesterday, I’d never heard/read it in its entirety. Just in case you are like me, I’ve posted it below. Go ahead and watch. I told on myself, but I won’t tell on you. I promise.

50 years after the fact, that speech gave me chills. It’s amazing to me how wonderful of an orator Dr. King was. He didn’t just speak. He preached.

As I watched I couldn’t help but to wonder what he would’ve been like if he weren’t the tragic hero in American history that gave his life for civil rights. What if his assassination never happened? Would he have been just like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton? Would he be viewed as just another one of those old black dudes who finds a racially fused cause to jump out in front of every once in a while? Would he be as respected as he is now?

The truth is that MLK was a great man. He had great determination and grit. He followed his heart and changed the course of American history in doing so. He’s a legend; an icon. But it’s also truth that his tragic death attributed to his legend just as much as his life did. Everybody talks about MLK now as if he were the greatest American of an age, but let’s be real. Some of the same people who have lauded him over the course of the past 50 years hated him and everything he stood for at the time. Tons of people had to hate him. If they didn’t, he wouldn’t have been put in jail. The people who participated in his protests wouldn’t have been attacked by local authorities. And, most importantly, he wouldn’t have been assassinated. He was a hero to some, but he was the most ominous of villains to others. He was the enemy or, at least, the embodiment of the enemy.

MLK never had the opportunity to be Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. His life was ended before he ever got the chance to attach the moniker of racial injustice to a cause that is widely viewed as non-racial. His story was cut short before it could be tainted.

The impact of all that he did and said is multiplied because of the tragedy of his death. His speeches and his actions characterize the entire Civil Rights Movement, because he was the tragic hero. He helped lead the movement with his life, and his death caused his work in the movement to reverberate throughout history. We all owe a tremendous debt to Dr. King, not only for the life he lived, but also for the death he died. I, for one, am too grateful for words.

Until next time…

-Erik (@WalkSays)

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Erik Walker

Erik is black.

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