Why We Can’t Wait

Quoting the late great Martin Luther King Jr. in the previous post could not have been timelier, given that today is in fact ‘Martin Luther King Commemoration Day’ here in the United States. It is undeniable that MLK was an incredible rhetorician and politician. And his politics and rhetoric had clear objectives, namely, truth and justice. Moreover, the aim of politics has always been truth and justice. Politics without truth and justice as its core objectives amounts to vanity and superficiality. Essentially, human beings are political creatures, and by nature, our political activity is aimed towards truth and justice. As MLK said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Also, MLK had a resounding message for the liberal elite in the United States. In a book titled “Why We Can’t Wait,” MLK wrote:

“We need a powerful sense of determination to banish the ugly blemish of racism scarring the image of America. We can, of course, try to temporize, negotiate small, inadequate changes and prolong the timetable of freedom in the hope that the narcotics of delay will dull the pain of progress. We can try, but we shall certainly fail. The shape of the world will not permit us the luxury of gradualism and procrastination. Not only is it immoral, it will not work. It will not work because Negroes know they have the right to be free. It will not work because Negroes have discovered, in nonviolent direct action, an irresistible force to propel what has been for so long an immovable object. It will not work because it retards the progress not only of the Negro, but of the nation as a whole.”

Thus, an administration and Congress of neoliberal and neoconservative shills should reckon with the body of wisdom that MLK left for us, but particularly with the passage I just mentioned. It is also worth noting that MLK was under surveillance by the FBI and “Department of Justice” for a very long time before becoming a national icon and global champion of human rights. Also, MLK’s focus was not limited merely to domestic issues. In fact, before his assassination and tragic death in 1968, MLK was also concerned with American militarism overseas. In a book titled “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” which was published in 1967, MLK wrote:

“We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together. And you can’t get rid of one without getting rid of the other. Jesus confronted this problem of the inter-relatedness of evil one day, or rather it was one night. A big-shot came to him and he asked Jesus a question, what shall I do to be saved? Jesus didn’t get bogged down in a specific evil. He looked at Nicodemus, and he didn’t say now Nicodemus you must not drink liquor. He didn’t say Nicodemus you must not commit adultery. He didn’t say Nicodemus you must not lie. He didn’t say Nicodemus you must not steal. He said, Nicodemus you must be born again. In other words, Nicodemus, the whole structure of your life must be changed…

Now that is what we are dealing with in America. Somebody must say to America, America if you have contempt for life, if you exploit human beings by seeing them as less than human, if you will treat human beings as a means to an end, you thingify those human beings. And if you will thingify persons, you will exploit them economically. And if you will exploit persons economically, you will abuse your military power to protect your economic investments and your economic exploitations. So, what America must be told today is that she must be born again. The whole structure of American life must be changed.”

Thus, if we are to truly honor MLK’s legacy, we must not pick and choose from MLK’s legacy for our own narrow ends and interests. Rather, anyone who truly stands for human rights and progress in the manner which MLK did must take MLK’s work as a holistic body in order to render one’s advocacy as authentic, effective, and truthful.

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