As we all know, today is the observed federal holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While there are Americans who have the utmost respect for Dr. King’s contribution to changing American society forever, some historians argue that his message has become “oversimplified.”
But nearly 40 years after his assassination in April 1968, after the deaths of his wife and of others who knew both the man and what he stood for, some say King is facing the same fate that has befallen many a historical figure — being frozen in a moment in time that ignores the full complexity of the man and his message (Source: CNN).
I, for one, can say that I’ve run into people who have become desensitized to what Dr. King’s contributions and his dreams were. In my experience, people have this broad definition of what Dr. King and other civil rights advocates were fighting for. People of all races, creeds, colors, religions, nationality, gender and sexual orientations all know that black people couldn’t sit at restaurant counters with whites; we all know that schools and public facilities were segregated; and we all know that black voters were physically and mentally intimidated to vote.
That’s all our society knows about the civil rights movement. We don’t hear much about the mental segregation and degradation that blacks suffered at the hands of white supremacy. We don’t hear much about the struggle for civil rights and equality in Northern, Midwestern and Western states. We don’t hear much about Dr. King’s advocacy for economic and environmental equality. We don’t hear much about Dr. King’s fight to end the war in Vietnam (in which black and poor white soldiers were being shipped to in record numbers).
What do you think? Do you think Dr. King’s message has become “oversimplified?” Do you often run into people who haven’t a clue about the broad spectrum of rights Dr. King and his followers advocated for?
What will you do today to celebrate the dream and to honor Dr. King’s legacy?