Thoughts from MLK DayJanuary 19, 2010 Leave a comment
Having attended a community MLK Day celebration and listened to several radio programs today, I’m more convinced than ever that we’re missing the point about the meaning of Dr. King.
One student, to his credit, spoke of Dr. King’s opposition to discrimination and linked that to what he saw as injustice in our present day health care system. No one should be discriminated against – and everyone has a right to access health care. Right on! This young man got the point. But, sadly, he’s the only young person I heard today who spoke of justice or attempted to connect Dr. King’s legacy to current day justice issues. I heard several other middle and high school students say things like, “No one wanted to resist Jim Crow until Dr. King gave them inspiration,” or “He opened the doors for hope and then people walked through.”
Not quite. Not to diminsh Dr. King’s legacy, but he was not the sole source of inspiration or resistance for black people, who had a firmly established tradition for resistance generations. And, even during the movement, there was considerable inspiration and resistance from the ground up, to which the visible leaders like Dr. King, had to catch up.
One student compared a beloved teacher to Dr. King based apparently on the teacher’s willingness to give of himself for the benefit of his students. Nothing wrong with giving selflessly for the benefit of individual students, but that’s not even close to the meaning of Dr. King.
I know it’s hard to tell the story of a group or a movement, rather than an individual. Seems we’ve done a terrible job of it with the Civil Rights Movement. As the movement generation ages, it seems more and more urgent that the story be told and re-told as the story of a generation (really several generations moving together and working in creative tension with one another). Let’s keep the history of MOVEMENT in the story of the Civil Rights Movement!