Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Some of my earliest memories as a child growing up in South Carolina during the 60s and 70s were of the signs indicating ‘whites only’ and ‘coloreds only’. Some signs went into more detail, featuring any combination from a long list; No Negroes, No Jews, No Mexicans, No Spanish, No Asians, No Dogs, White Males Only….
I’m told I was a curious kid who’d annoy others with all my questions. I specifically recall being disappointed and frustrated by the mumbled ‘non-answers’ I’d get whenever I asked why I could only use one water fountain, but not the one right next to it, why this bathroom but not that one, or why we had to enter and leave a building by one door but not the other.
“Just the way it is.”
“The sign says so.”
“Doesn’t matter anymore, but it’d cost too much money to chisel the sign out of the concrete.”
Yes, some of the signs were permanently embedded into the building’s concrete or brick walls. Although changes had been made to de-segregate the South, that kind of change seemed to take a very long time to enact.
Each year, Martin Luther King, Jr. (a.k.a.MLK) Day is celebrated in the United States on the third Monday of January. Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1968, MLK was assassinated. The most prominent advocate of non-violent protest, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1964), and gifted speaker who used his voice in a passionate struggle for equal rights, was silenced by a gun as he stood on the balcony of his motel in Tennessee.
I learned a bit more about MLK as I grew up. The first time I heard his “I have a dream….” speech, tears came to my eyes. I still get shivers when I see him in old news reels.
Another one of his quotes intrigued me:
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”
To understand the context, I looked at transcripts of his speeches. Here's a link to a brief clip in which he explains “creative maladjustment”:
It is clear that MLK’s legacy reaches beyond the inroads made in the fight for civil liberties. He says he will never be adjusted “to segregation and discrimination… to religious bigotry… (unfair) economic conditions… to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence…”
He calls for the formation of a new organization: “...The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment, and through such maladjustment we’ll be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man…”
Sign me up!