It is interesting that more people who were unaware of Dr. King’s life and legacy have now been made aware of his work thanks to the in-fighting between the top two Democratic candidates over the last couple of weeks. Thankfully they’ve called a truce — at least on this issue — but it reminded me of what I wrote at this time last year about the impact of Dr. King on me personally and the Question of the Day that I posed. Notwithstanding the politicians’ attempts to co-opt Dr. King, it’s safe to say that while many Americans, especially the younger generations, may not know the details of his life and the number of marches he led or the number of times he stood up for racial equality, they also stand on his shoulders and many of the things they — and we — take for granted today would not have been possible without his inspiration and leadership.
For me, it was his peaceful yet firm resolve that inspired me to not just come out of the closet but also to not allow the bigotry and derision of the small-minded to shame me into hiding the fact that I’m gay. It wasn’t a matter of pride, either, because I don’t remember Dr. King ever preaching the gospel of black pride. That implies somehow that African-Americans are superior in some way, and that is not what Dr. King believed, either. He wanted equality and fairness; comity and community.
I have no idea how Dr. King would view this day and his remembrances, but if reading what he wrote and remembering what he stood for is any guide, he would probably say that today is the day to think of others who have yet to achieve the goals he tried to reach and that he would not take a day off in trying to achieve them. And the question still stands:
What does Dr. Martin Luther King mean to you? How has his life and his work touched you, if at all?