Rev Dr Martin Luther King's call to America to abandon racism and unjust wars haunts the nation as Donald J Trump takes over the White House. It rings as true today as in the civil rights and Viet Nam 1960’s.
Unjust acts by the powerful against the weakest groups at home are, with punitive actions against others abroad, part of one “inter-related reality” – and must be confronted.
King said: "I was quiet while a charade was being performed.” Then, something said to me, "Martin, you have got to stand up on this. No matter what it means".
"As I reviewed the war events, I saw an orderly build up of evil, an accumulation of inhumanities, each of which alone was sufficient to make men hide in shame. What was woeful, but true, was that my country was only talking peace but was bent on military victory. Inside the glove of peace was the clenched fist of war."
Strong medicine to swallow for misguided power holders and media barons. The national news media never accommodated the changed thrust of King’s views. Acceptance as a token leader of Blacks was one thing. But an audacious prince of peace was quite another thing.
The Readers’ Digest saw insurrection in the way he linked volatile issues of domestic and foreign policy. Time magazine implied he was a demagogue. The Washington Post lamented that he had “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people”.
Yet King persistently linked racism at home and foreign wars. He refused to be a “guilty bystander” to funding policies that were hostile to the poor but generous to the military industrial complex that made the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”. At an anti-war rally at the United Nations, he warned that “the security we profess to seek in foreign adventures we will lose in our decaying cities”. This was manifestly the dual and inter-related reality that he had condemned.
Moreover, King’s dreams and actions await rekindling. He signalled this when honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize, saying:
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
“I believe that amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow…[in the end] right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
To pursue this right-over-evil victory, people around America worked together in the MLK Weekend (January 14th-16th) to revive Rev. Dr. King’s call for a Poor People’s Campaign. Organisers said that, in 2017 as in 1967, our nation needs to undergo a “radical revolution of values” and it’s the poor and the dispossessed who are in the best position to lead the way.
King's views are in print and digital media. See The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr edited by Clayborne Carson; the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University, The Archive of The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and The Poor Peoples Campaign.
*Thomas L Blair is an award-winning journalist, author and sociologist. He writes features for The-Latest.com and is well-known for his expert commentaries on Blacks in Britain and Afro-Europe.
He is celebrating his 20th-year (1997-2017) of publishing the Chronicleworld.co.uk