When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood and addressed the enormous crowd gathered around the Lincoln Memorial, he believed he was laying out the blueprint for a new normalcy in America. King’s new normal would “give [African Americans] upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice”. When he passionately spoke about the urgency of creating opportunities for all Americans, he seemed to take a glance in a possible future for this nation. Unfortunately, some 53 years later, we have failed to fully accomplish many goals of Dr. King’s “dream”.
While laying out the new normal for America, Dr. King warned us against the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism”. In this, our nation and our community has failed. We have taken the tranquilizing drug of gradualism and have continued to see the degradation of our community. Our courts have rolled back many of the safeguards put in place by the efforts of Dr. King and other Civil Rights martyrs. Drugs, crime, and lack of investment have decimated neighborhoods once filled with the spirit of African American sense of community. And as the bullet of an officer is killing more and more of our children and young adults, it is clear we have destroyed Dr. King’s blueprint.
Though we often overlook the majority of Dr. King’s normalcy address for his dream of a new nation, it is important to truly look at the speech’s evaluation of how we know when our nation lived out its promise of all men being created equal.
“We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
If Dr. King were still here today I would personally apologize to him. After Dr. King’s death, his fellow activists in the movement began to live out the “fruits of their labor”. They began to believe the only way for African Americans to succeed was to be anything other than Black. Because of this, their children became complacent and began to turn their backs on our identity. Their children became so complacent with the status quo that by the time my generation came into our own our community was already lost.
As more Millennials are becoming young adults and taking up the cause of social justice for all Americans, we now are able to revisit Dr. King’s call for a new normal. We can no longer just sit back and watch as those “in power” continue to hold us back from creating the true change Dr. King envisioned. Dr. King they may have failed you, but we will not! #ijs