By Lennie Jarratt
April 4 is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s tragic assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. On this sad occasion, Americans ought to reflect on MLK’s monumental life and reconsider his philosophy on our waning freedom.
MLK awakened the oppressed to yearn for freedom and inspired them by example. Dr. King initiated a peaceful revolution with his tantalizing words and brave deeds. He preached love, respect, civil disobedience, and perseverance through trying times.
His countless personal sacrifices led a generation to finally topple societal barriers. He did not seek violence, but when violence was inflicted upon him, he handled it with valor.
The civil rights revolution Dr. King set in motion produced great victories. There are battles still to be waged, but we are much closer to MLK’s “dream” of a colorblind, integrated society.
In the words of Dr. King, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
MLK was a Baptist minister. He preached that freedom emanated from God, not government. King’s philosophy, largely dismissed today, was shared by the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson.
As Jefferson eloquently stated in The Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The fight for freedom is never-ending. So long as humans seek power, they will use the levers of government to control and oppress others. As MLK noted in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
On April 4, Americans should honor MLK’s legacy by recognizing his achievements, sacrifices and the ultimate price he paid for the cause of freedom.