'Dr Martin Luther King's ideal has been murdered'

‘Dr Martin Luther King’s ideal has been murdered’

LOST LEGACY: Dr Martin Luther King speaking during a civil rights rally in the 1960s

FIFTY-ONE YEARS ago, a gunshot in Memphis, Tennessee put out one of the brightest lights of the anti/post-colonial era.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr fell victim to the violence against which he had crusaded for most, if not all, of his adult life.

It was a tragic end for such a brilliant witness to the love of God and its transformative potential in the lives of men and nations.

Yet, with the passing of time, we’ve come to realise that more than a man, indeed a multi-dimensional ideal, fell victim to the assassin’s hand.

Since the death of Dr King, we’ve watched as a curious array of would-be successors reached for the brass ring of his mythic popularity and oratorical prowess.

We have watched as a series of pretenders have marched through our streets as little more than mascots of a neoliberal political agenda largely leaving the foundation of an economic system that presupposes the immiseration of the masses for the enrichment of a few intact.

We watched as a positive, proactive, disciplined struggle against the foundations of injustice was reduced to little more than the politics of outrage, conveniently canned in special interest rhetoric that effectively undercuts our more universal claims.

We watched as hope ceased to be an actionable ethic and the twin sister of a moral courage willing to risk life and limb and became instead a sentimentally cheap rhetorical device used to evade the weightier matters of our contemporary predicament.

We’ve watched as white people on the right and the left (with a complicit cadre of well-meaning or perhaps just baldly ambitious blacks) sought to restore white supremacy by retaking the moral high ground through a subtle rhetoric that flattens out the moral universe with the crude bludgeon of an ahistorical, anti-discrimination ethic of equality, effectively relativising the unique place of race in America’s oppressive machinations.

Since Dr King’s assassination they’ve savaged his legacy like carrion dogs tearing away fleshy fragments to satisfy their lust for moral legitimation, while few, if any, have truly embraced his ethic of struggle-in-love through sustained non-violent direct action.

In the end, what may have been even worse than the assassination of the man was the subsequent murder of the ideal.

Pastor Matthew V Johnson Sr, PhD, is a pastor at Mount Moriah Baptist Church Pratt City, Birmingham, Alabama and Vice Chair of the Social Justice Commission, Progressive National Baptist Convention.

This article appears courtesy of BlackPress USA.

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