As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., it deeply disturbs me how so many have distorted the legacy and intent of the most influential civil rights leader in modern history. In the face of true injustice and bodily harm, Dr. King never wavered from his convictions as he spoke with a vigor and eloquence that could sway the most obstinate critic. No matter how perilous the situation or egregious the crime, he symbolically and literally embodied non-violence, the struggle for racial equality, by refusing to abandon the belief that people of all creeds and color deserved to be treated in the same light as they were created: as equals in the eyes of God.
Despite the media’s otherwise sensational claims, the same man who endured hatred and death threats on a daily basis never would have embraced the Ferguson or Baltimore riots, he never would have stood idly by as crime, drug abuse, unemployment and broken families ravaged the black community, he never would have invoked slavery or poverty to justify brutality, and he never would have demanded special treatment, for anyone, not already afforded to all Americans. Above all, the son of a former pastor preached accountability born from an acute self-awareness that rejected self-pity or entitlement. Failing to hold everyone to the same standard, especially oneself, meant succeeding in discriminating. Martin Luther King did not want to be seen as a victim, to shout racism at every perceived misfortune or disagreement; he merely wished for every soul the inalienable right to live the life of their choosing, to prosper according to their own unique gifts, without undue scorn or prejudice. Sadly, those voices claiming to be faithful disciples of Dr. King’s profound and indelible teachings – hovering parasites like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson – have exploited tragedy, invented injustice, and incited animosity ad nauseam almost exclusively for personal gain. Their presence has done little to assuage the actual plight of black Americans, the moral and economic erosion of our inner cities, because such a proposition requires principle over press conferences and sacrifice over sentiment. Change does not occur by raising a singular fist to protest a perceived injustice; it resides in the positive impressions made by loving parents, the resourceful faith of fortitude, and those overlooked contributions made by everyday people willing to act without malice or reward.