Would Martin Luther King be happy with Black America in 2013?

Would Martin Luther King be happy with Black America in 2013?

This week we celebrated the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day Barack Obama was inaugurated.   Martin Luther King would be proud.  Not only had the nation elected a black man president, but we re-elected him.

King would be happy with the steps our nation has taken.  More blacks have opportunities to succeed.  Blacks who have received an education have been able to translate that education into opportunities for themselves and their families.  There is a vibrant black middle class that mirrors the American middle class.  We work hard to give our children a good place to live, a quality education and opportunities to succeed as adults.  We save for retirement.  We stress about taxes.  We are looking for opportunities to take the next step in our careers and life.

Although there is more work to do– we are underrepresented in corporate America for example– the blood spilled by Dr. King, Medgar Evers, and thousands of others in the 50's and 60's has given my generation the opportunity to get a quality education, have a career and buy a home in any neighborhood we can afford to live in.  The opportunity to do these three basic things didn’t exist for blacks when Dr. King walked with us.

So even with the opportunities fought for two generations ago, Dr. King would not be happy if he were here.  If he were alive today, he’d be downright upset.

Chicago had 506 homicides last year.  The majority of those deaths were on the south and west sides, where blacks gunned down other blacks.

There has been criticism of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy for their failure to be able to stem the violence.  But blaming the mayor and the police is utterly ridiculous.  Unless Emanuel and McCarthy leave their homes every weekend and shoot black children on the south and west sides, placing blame on them– rather than the shooter– will just allow the problem to get worse.

Part of the problem is us: Black America.  Our leaders (with notable exceptions, like Pastor Corey Brooks and educator Tim King) have been silent too long and now we’re in a position where violence in our neighborhoods is worse than Afghanistan.

In his 2008 book, What Would Martin Say?, Clarence B. Jones spoke about issues facing Black America and gave his take on what his old friend and mentor, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., would say about those ills.  With respect to Black leadership, Jones wrote:

At a time when the nation’s streets are black killing fields– with blacks killing blacks by the dozens every week for no rational reason– the leadership appears concerned only with what might get hem on television; and apparently twenty more gangstas shot down last Saturday night is just another dog-bites-man, old-news story unworthy of mention.  If America’s black leadership truly had black America’s best interests in mind, that’s the issue the leaders would address.

Jones is right– our “leadership” must address the constant killing in our community.  How come when two football rivals in DuPage County meet for a big game, the play on the field gets news, but when two basketball rivals go at it in Chicago, the shooting death of a Black teenager gets attention?  Why are our children are bringing guns to basketball games?  Who is parenting these kids?

I imagine Martin Luther King and the thousands of others who fought to get us rights to do basic things– like eating a meal at the same counter as a white man, being able to sit in the front of a bus or having the ability to get a quality education-- would be pissed if they knew that their struggle and their sacrifice has not only led to genocide in our neighborhoods but Black “leaders” lack of accountability for that genocide.

Why are our children killing our children?  What did we do wrong?  What is our responsibility for the violence?

These are the questions we need to sit down and discuss.  But to do so, we must look in the mirror.  Our we parenting our children?  We can’t have a conversation about our kids dying in the street without discussion whether we have done something to put them there.  Until we decide to parent our children and try to guide them to a better place in life– through preaching and more importantly through example– unfortunately, we will continue to see body counts rise on the south and west sides of Chicago.

This isn’t what Martin Luther King fought for.  Why aren’t we fighting harder to stop it?


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  • Brian, I'll address your last question about why the fight isn't harder. There are few men -- read correctly-- who feel empowered and can speak with authority and example to stop it.

    Why is this so? The diminished role of the male in society, and I am not just talking about males of color. What color are the boys and young men shooting up schools?

    Well meaning social engineers have deconstructed the black family over the years, and the measurement of their achievement has not been on the success or removing the male but on the aspirations and "good intentions". The same old thing done again and again and producing bad results...you know, the definition of insanity.

    You see this wide ranging application now across all races and social strata. Let me remind you of the "Julia'" character, created by the Obama campaign, where a fictional woman existence was made possible, after birth to a single woman, by the benevolence of the federal government. Julia was "all woman", not black, white or any hue.

    Her home, the federal plantation. Her offspring, the results of having a daddy living in DC. That cannot be good, and could not have been the intention of MLK. At least I did not see or hear it in his speeches, and I remember some live.

  • Ronald H. Witt Illinois

  • Dr. King was a brilliant man. A man of positive power. A man of vision. I think he would be horrified if he were to look around today.

    The black culture has been hijacked by the gang bangers. The cultural values that were so strong 50 years ago are now gone.
    Gangs, death, violence, abusing women. All this crowds out the hard working, striving, well educated blacks.

    We have more racism today than we did 50 years ago. But that is only because of the black race baiters like Rev. Al Sharpton. They go into a situation without the facts and demand justice and imply that the suspect is guilty. Tawana Brawley, Duke Lacrosse Team. We don't know yet about Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin because the facts are not in yet. Maybe Rev. Al got this one right. But we don't know yet. If he is wrong like he has been in the past will there be an apology? Will there be a beer summit?

    The Black Panthers put a bounty on George Zimmerman's head. Spike "do the right thing" Lee Tweets an address touting it to be Zimmerman's when it was not. Hate crimes? No. But had that been a white person offering the bounty and tweeting, that would constitute a hate crime.

    Funny, I thought Dr. King was right when he dreamed that people would be judged by the content of their character. I believe in that. I believe Dr. King. He is a man who had content of character. We need more men like him. Unfortunately, regardless of skin color they are in short supply.

    To quote another King "Can't we all just get along?"

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    Hell no he would not be proud of us!!!!!! I'm not proud of us. In social and economic terms we are in a lot of cases dead last and unfocused. He is probably rolling over in his grave right now. We have only as of late made a political impact with the election and re-election of Obama. We need to do a hell of a lot more. We are still in a lot of ways second class citizens. And we bear the a major portion of the blame. Let's get it together people!!!! Chicago Stand UP!!!!!!!

  • Thank you all. this has to be one of the best responses to the question I have read but I will say it effects all races. it seems human in general have lost all hope of working hard or the value that hard word pays off. Now we give our kids rewards just for trying or not even trying. When they graduate school they think the world owns them something and they do not need to work for it. Yes it is a tragedy that black are killing blacks all the time and the major part of MLK blvds across America are over run with violence . The greatest quote I ever read was Race does not define us but rather we define race. I think all leaders need to push the issue white and black about the violence on our streets. The world has changed for the worse. I remember being a kid able to run around the neighborhood riding my bike or just playing around not scared of what would happen. Now there is so much violence and sick people in the world our kids of all race have lost that freedom. We need to stand up as people together and remember hard work pays off and no one is owned anything unless you earned it.

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    Sadly it's harder for black americans to solve their problems than just through self reflection. I'm not the kind of person to try and find fault elsewhere, and truly I appreciate your writing here, where you say that you first need to look at you selves to see where you have gone wrong. Introspection is critical, you need to be able to take the blame when it's truly black people's fault for something wrong in their community.

    But one giant evil that destroys black families and continues to perpetuate this violence is the prison culture in America. The legal system and prison system is sometimes a bit too eager to put a black man behind bars for minor drug charges. The end result of that: one less taxpayer, one less man in the labor force, one less father teaching his kids right from wrong, one less husband or at the very least boyfriend to help his significant other raise the kids and keep a household financially stable.

    Prisons ruin black families and communities, resulting in children with no solid upbringing ripe for the picking for criminals. Their surrogate father's criminal line of work eventually lands them right in the same prison their actual fathers were put. I was in an atlanta jail for a weekend once for failure to appear in court and noticed how so many black people knew each other. Jail, in many ways, is part of the black community. It's not uncommon for a black man to be thrown in jail for a month for some minor crime and then continue to be thrown back in jail and see others in your community in there with you.

    So, I agree that blacks should self reflect on their mistakes and think on what Martin Luther King would think of y'all if he saw his community how it is now. But the prison/legal system destroys so many black families and communities that America needs to think of a better way of justice and reform than plucking the breadwinner and foundation of a family and throwing him in a cell for years. That does so much damage in so many ways. And at the end of the day nothing comes out of it. It's an outdated and inefficient form of justice/reform. In my heart I know King would protest the prison system if he were alive.

    Thanks to whoever reads all I wrote. I really wish for black people to succeed. I'm more in tune with black people's problems than my own people's problems haha. Cubans are doing okay though, don't worry about us.

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