As Poor Get Poorer King’s Legacy Needs Rekindling

As America commemorates, or in some states tolerates, the birthday of arguably the greatest American of the 20th century–Dr. Martin Luther King–the past few years has shown that the advancement of African-Americans and the poor, in general, have been merely cosmetic.

First, this national holiday in honor Dr. King should not be characterized as a “black” holiday as it is too often. The vision of Dr. King was, indeed racial harmony and equality for all blacks, but also and specifically for the poorest and indigent of Americans.

This overlooked aspect of Dr. King’s beliefs–ideas he died fighting for–have not been realized, but a gap between rich and poor has widened greatly. Often we attempt to guess how historically figures would react to current events. How would the Founding Fathers view the Second Amendment today? How would John Lennon respond to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? What would Martin Luther King think of our society today? He would not be very happy.

The working poor in America has grown exponentially since the late 1960s and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. As we stand today, the minimum wage has not increased in nearly 10 years. Corporations are cutting pensions for loyal retirees and health benefits are non-existent. America still functions with inequities in health care even has reform will soon make it somewhat more manageable. People get sick and fall into deeper despair.

For those unfortunate and few, the mounting debt and tension rises with no end. This past year, the Republican Congress made it harder for Americans to file for bankruptcy. There is no second chance in America, especially when it’s their money, yet many chances when it comes to the bankers doling out the cash at exorbitant interest rates.

But, should we expect anything different? This is, after all, the same government that spied on and sought to end Dr. King’s dream, if they didn’t literally, with a bullet. And their dream to rid the country’s conscienceness of his noble deeds is still with us today.

An assault on Dr. King’s legacy surrounds us everyday. This day, as mentioned before, is dismissed by too many as a black struggle . Popular culture is devoid of anything related to Dr. King. Have you ever noticed there has never been a big-budget Hollywood biopic about Dr. King? Why is that? Hollywood can make one for Malcolm X and Ray Charles, but can’t tell the heroic and fascinating story of a Southern preacher changing the way American lived together?

It’s just a day now for politicians across the land to make typically reverential, but empty remarks about his legacy. Gov. Jerry Brown today lauded King’s legacy in the same week he sought to dramatically cut state programs for the poorest in California along with throwing monkey wrench into the ability for cities to build affordable housing for their residents.

The past decade has weathered an assault to the issues that Dr. King stood for and today. We nee to rekindle the fervor and enlightenment that he stoked in America over 40 years ago. Essentially, this day is about remembering to help weakest among us first and those with all the means to survive second and third.