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Martin Luther King Jr.: A Man of Good Thought

King’s intergenerational message transcended the outskirts of the United States, spilling the hope of a better future into the rest of the world.

Clustered in the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, weary African Americans gazed towards Martin Luther King Jr. standing upon the pulpit in 1955. His message was one of hope, one seeking to repair the racial demise of an American society gripped with segregation, and racial injustice. To White lawmakers, this message of racial equality was indeed daunting. However, to African Americans, Martin Luther King Jr.’s message served as a beacon of hope that drove a nation-wide rallying cry to object the oppressive laws that continuously quashed Black Americans from acquiring fundamental human rights.

The Civil Rights Movement represented the peaceful defiance of the laws that oppressed African Americans. It turned the tides in America, as for the first time, Black Americans sought to end the laws that permitted racial segregation, daily lynching, and subordination upon their people. For centuries, African Americans were not permitted to live, eat, work, play, travel, and shop where they desired. They were not permitted to vote—vote against the laws that oppressed them. Just like in South Africa, where “Blacks” were considered the “inferior race” and Whites, the “superior race,” so it was in America.[1] Just like Nelson Mandela—through imprisonment and suffering—sought to eradicate the racial injustices amid his country, so was Martin Luther King Jr. attacked, stabbed, and imprisoned in his pursuit of equality. As he states:

I was proud of my crime. It was the crime of joining my people in a non-violent protest against injustice. It was the crime of seeking to install within my people a sense of dignity and self-respect. It was the crime of desiring for my people the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It was above all, the crime of seeking to convince my people that non-cooperation with evil is just as much a moral duty as cooperation with good.[2]

King was a man of vision. King envisioned a unified United States of America, where “the brotherhood of man transcended all races, religions, political, social and economic differences.”

King desired to see, whether during or after his life, an America where Black and White people are equally treated and regarded levelly with one another.

More candidly, King envisioned an America where the slogan “all men are created equal” was not a mere masquerade. Throughout the ’50s and ‘60s, Martin Luther King Jr. marched alongside White, Latino, and Black demonstrators who, too, sought to defy the relatively normative and legitimate American belief that “Negros were slaves, and should remain slaves” by slowly, incrementally, and peacefully fighting to crumble America’s evil racism.[3] As King states:

Men for years now have been talking about war and peace, but no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and non-violence in this world. It’s non-violence or non-existence.[4]

Despite the gravity of King’s words, racism remains a thinly veiled yet recurring problem in today’s world. And history has repeatedly shown its chronic character throughout time. Apartheid in South Africa, Jim Crow in the United States, the Nelson Act towards the Anishinaabe community, Antisemitism towards Jews in Nazi Germany: these socially accepted yet utterly racist laws have, indeed, revealed the degree to which humankind’s hatred has continuously fuelled segregation and discrimination on a global scale. Thus, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech was powerful insofar as the significance of his message was universal and applicable today. Therefore, as human beings we should seek to ask ourselves what King said to the people:

“How long will it take?” (Speak, sir) Somebody’s asking, “How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?” Somebody’s asking, “When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?” Somebody’s asking, “When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, (Speak, speak, speak) plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, (Speak) and truth buried?” (Yes, sir).[5]

These are the questions that we as a society should reflect upon today, as we continue to bear witness to the many injustices (despite not being to the same extent) that were seen in King’s times. When will we as a society shake edifice of racial discrimination to its core?

Amid a racially and economically divided United States of America, Martin Luther King Jr. preached about love—the love of God.

He spoke of conquering the deep racial rift entrenched within America with non-violent mass confrontation. Rather than utilizing violence, King exclaimed the necessity to love one another. King portrayed and transcended the all-encompassing love of God to the world, in the fight against racial inequality, and in the fight for freedom. And, as Philippians 4:8 states:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

All in all, Martin Luther King Jr. was a good man of good thoughts. He thought of speaking truth for a noble, right, and pure cause. Most importantly, he was a man who thought of the over-arching importance of love—love for humanity. Ultimately, King’s intergenerational message transcended the outskirts of the United States, spilling the hope of a better future into the rest of the world.

[1] Donald, Ellis, “Apartheid” Word Crimes; Reclaiming The Language of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Indiana University Press, 2019.

[2] MLKJP, GAMK, Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers (Series I-IV), Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., Atlanta, Ga.

[3] Meredith Roman, Opposing Jim Crow: African Americans and the Soviet Indictment of U.S. Racism, 1928-1937, (Lincoln: UNP – Nebraska, 2012), 33

[4] MLKJP, GAMK, Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers (Series I-IV), Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., Atlanta, Ga.

[5] MLKJP, GAMK, Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers (Series I-IV), Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., Atlanta, Ga.

Cedric Iyumva runs with the Trinity Western Spartans Men’s Track and Field team. Originally from Burundi, a small, landlocked, Central-East African country, Cedric was born, raised and currently resides in Surrey, B.C. He says, “But I’m Burundian at heart.”