To honor him and his day, I sat down at my desk this morning, in my gray robe with a cup of green tea, with the intention of writing about Martin Luther King, Jr. Typically, before I write, my brain sifts and sorts through its collection of information, useless knowledge, opinions— as one does a crowded kitchen cabinet, before grabbing a few ingredients, balancing the stash in my arms, and deciding that I could make something whole out of the various ingredients.
I don’t control my brain’s path as it rambles through my thoughts. And I end up with what I end up with. Whatever keeps appearing determines what I write. For some reason, this morning, I couldn’t think about Dr. King, without thinking about Donald Trump—two seemingly contrasting and mismatched topics for consumption. Dr. King is the beacon for love and acceptance for all people, and particularly Black Americans, whereas Donald Trump has come to symbolize hate, misogyny and separation. He is the antithesis of Dr. King and clearly despises Black people. He has said,
“A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market. If I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I believe they do have an actual advantage.”
He also has said, according to John R. O’Donnell in his book Trumped, “Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that.”
So I pondered, were Dr. King alive today, what would he think about Trump and the current going-ons? And I concluded, “not much.” Trump isn’t an outlier — nor are his bigoted thoughts — as illustrated by his growing following. But, consider for a moment: if you and your people were in a place of absolute power, and you started to see hints of an uprising by the underclass—a revolution of sorts — what would you do? You witness two consecutive elections of a Black president; mobilization among the poor and disenfranchised in protesting against videotaped police atrocities (even though they have been occurring for years); and everybody from gang leaders to ballerinas talking about change. What would you do? How would you react? History will show you that most of us would act similarly to Trump. People of authority and the ruling classes have always reacted when their place is threatened. Trump is White. He is male. He and most White males do not want to lose their position of power in the United States. The majority of Trump supporters are older, White males and they “want their America back.”
Dr. King, I contend, would not only be unfazed about Trump, but would have fully expected him. He would know that Trump was there, but wouldn’t pay him too much mind—like background music or curtains on windows. I think that he would encourage us to spend no time being distracted by Trump and all of our time focused on actual change, the rumblings of a revolution, that makes people like Trump begin to holler. Let’s not focus on what Trump is doing; but on what we have to do. In 1968, Dr. King stood in the pulpit of National Cathedral in Washington where he implored those in the pews not to sleep through the revolution occurring in our country. Those on the sidelines, ignorant of the march toward progress, will not solve the social problems of our time they’ll only help to stagnate them.
“One of the great misfortunes of history is that all too many individuals and institutions find themselves in a great period of change and yet fail to achieve the new attitudes and outlooks that the new situation demands. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution. And there can be no gainsaying of the fact that a social revolution is taking place in our world today. We see it in other nations in the demise of colonialism. We see it in our own nation, in the struggle against racial segregation and discrimination, and as we notice this struggle we are aware of the fact that a social revolution is taking place in our midst. Victor Hugo once said that there is nothing more powerful in all the world than an idea whose time has come. The idea whose time has come today is the idea of freedom and human dignity, and so all over the world we see something of freedom explosion, and this reveals to us that we are in the midst of revolutionary times. An older order is passing away and a new order is coming into being.”
We must continue to actively fight for fair treatment at America’s colleges and universities like the athletes did this year at the University of Missouri. We must push forward with movements like Black Lives Matter after the unjust deaths of Black males at the hands of police officers. We must consider our participation in organizations that let us in, but won’t let us up like the Academy Awards. We must rally against little Muslim boys, who are called “terrorists” when they are simply trying to impress a teacher. We must continue to break barriers: in corporations, on the field, on the stage and in schools. We must innovate, create and own. We must strive for equal pay, equal opportunity, equal justice, equal rights–as Dr. King led us to do.
There will always be the George Wallaces and the Donald Trumps of the world. Let them be relegated to mere grocery store music that fades in the background as you still get your shopping done. Keep marching. Keep pushing. “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long,” King said. “But it bends toward justice.”