Monday, January 21, 2013

Remembering a King

Remembering a King

When we hear the words king, we think of grandeur, magnificence and royalty. Such words are fitting to describe the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man lauded for his bravery, his personal conviction, and his dedication to not only the civil rights struggle in America, but his desire for peace and equity for all.

He has been called a prophet, a martyr and a saint. He generates as much interested today, 45 years after his death, as he did during the height of the civil rights movement. Though his birthday has become a national holiday, it was a long hard fight before the King Holiday Bill was signed into law on November 2, 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. The road to this day of celebration was not without its hurdles to honor a man who did great things for mankind.

Though we hear King being spoken of in glowing terms today, that was not always the case. He was referred to as a communist when communism was a dirty word. The “content of his character” has been under attack amid charges of infidelity and plagiarism. He has been depicted as a simple man, a dreamer, but his vision for humanity was so much larger than that. The one-dimensional King that is idolized and presented to the world is a far cry from the complex, humane man that King was before he was anything else.

The love we have for the man called King today is not the love we had for King the man back then. During his lifetime King was highly criticized by many—black and white. He was criticized for being too passive; criticized for wanting too much too soon; and criticized for finding fault with the American government and its policies of economic distribution. He understood not only the evils of racism, but of capitalism as well.

We must be careful not to allow the rewriting of history and selective amnesia to whitewash the legacy of Dr. King. He was a man who faltered. A man who made mistakes. A man who didn’t always get it right. But he was a man called to action, and he acted even when it was unfavorable for him to do so. Yes he was a dreamer, but he was also a visionary. Yes he pushed peace, but his thoughts were radical then and they are radical now. He became increasingly vocal against the status quo in his later years.

And more than 40 years after his death, his image emerges unscathed to those who knew and loved the man we know as King.