MLK Was More Than a Dreamer
It's troubling how the civil rights legend's revolutionary message has been hijacked.
Roosevelt once asked A. Philip Randolph, leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the March on Washington Movement in 1941, what he thought of the plight of the Negro people and where the nation was headed. After Randolph answered, Roosevelt said, "I've heard everything you've said tonight, and I couldn't agree with you more. I agree with everything that you've said, including my capacity to be able to right many of these wrongs and to use my power and the bully pulpit ... But I would ask one thing of you, Mr. Randolph, and that is go out and make me do it." Randolph did just that. He was that nonviolent gadfly.
In the 1960s, Kennedy and Johnson's nonviolent gadfly was King himself. What gets lost in characterizing King as a "dreamer" or defining him by his "dream" is the clear understanding and appreciation of the horrific social, legal and cultural nightmare that African Americans were living through in 1963 when he delivered the famous address.
The best way to pay tribute to King and his total sacrifice is to understand what he stood for and what he died for. We must keep him in context. We must wake up from the dream and apply his vision in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of our much too recent past and to make today a better reality.
Dr. Wilmer Leon is the producer-host of the national talk radio show Inside the Issues With Wilmer Leon and a teaching associate in political science at Howard University. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Images of MLK, the Man
See the civil rights legend as both a family man and a revolutionary in these stunning photos.