by Alex Storm @alexstormtmt
If Martin Luther King Jr was alive today, he would be 87. No doubt he would be proud of the progress in civil rights during his lifetime, and perhaps there would be far more progress than we have seen. Nonetheless there’s still a long way to go before Americans are truly united, regardless of skin color. In honor of this amazing man, I wanted to take today to think about some of the less famous, but still intriguing lines of his.
In Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, he described the ‘bad check’ written to the black men of America. The bad check was the constitutional guarantee of the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which were not given to African Americans, even after the Emancipation Proclamation and Civil War. King said, “we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” This belief should be echoed all across the United States in 2016! There is still a massive shortage of justice in our country, and the opportunities are not evenly spread across the population. Too many people of color lack broader opportunities as a result of their access to education, healthcare, and resources. The bank of justice isn’t bankrupt and the vaults of opportunity aren’t empty; unfortunately, they both just cater to one class of people.
In his final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, King called for all Americans to demand justice through a restructuring of society: “The comfortable, entrenched, the privileged cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change of the status quo.” This quote is so relevant today, as we hear the call from politicians over and over again to ‘make America great again’. They’re saying, please don’t change the status quo where privileged old white men are in power and no one questions their place on the class ladder. King recognized that society needed to be restructured in order for wealth and power to be redistributed so that all groups could be interdependent and therefore, united. Unfortunately, no such thing came to pass, and the rich have only gotten richer.
The final MLK quote that I want to share is this: “As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.” There were so many things that were not going well for people in 1963. Thousands of people were facing discrimination and persecution on American soil. I can’t say how much this number has changed, but the fact is, we must keep moving forward. The fight for justice has certainly lasted much longer than King expected and his dream is not yet achieved, but it will never be achieved if people give up hope.